Thursday, September 19, 2019

Worlds apart

This ramble is actually a few states in the making. Over this last week I was out of town for a work conference. It was a jaunty trip over to the Jersey coast and Atlantic City. My buddy and I drove across the great, very, very wide state of Pennsylvania. It took us through the skyrise metropolis of Philadelphia and the hustle and bustle of a huge east coast city.

I reside outside what I believe now is the fourteenth largest city in the U.S., Columbus. But although they are perhaps only five-hundred miles apart, these two cities reside in different worlds. (Had I the time I would have looked up my child-hood friend Billy Wilson whom I believe resides somewhere in that area. Just for anyone who is interested,  he has started a company named On Doc. But that ramble is for another day).

The notion of this ramble didn't come to fruition until I sat waiting for my haircut. I picked up a magazine from the rack, one of the housekeeping genre with all the good stuff coming for the autumnal equinox. That's Fall for you unenlightened. Within its pages were the recipes and crafts of the upcoming season. It dawned on my from my recent trip that many of these pages seem to be geared to the Midwestern area of the country and/or the rural vastness of this great country. I pondered what it would be like to live in a highly urbanized area of the country and have these images before me.

I wouldn't think they would strike the same chord in places like Philly, New York City or any of the other megatropolises we have scattered around the country. Pictures of pumpkins and cornstalks, bales of straw and scarecrows somehow seem to ring hollow in my mind in these mega-cities.
Perhaps it is my own naivete of the world that leads me to this conclusion. I have only lived in this part of the country and my experience reflects that viewpoint. But what else it tells me is, though we are all Americans we might as well live in different countries sometimes. Their world is not my world and vice versa. My semi-rural upbringing has different roots and different customs. Perhaps one day I will again meet my friend Mr. Wilson and we will sit down to have a beer and discuss my notions.

I hope so. Even after forty years, he is a good friend.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

41

It's amazing what grabs our attention as a little child and how we think of things at a young age. As a little boy I grew up a Minnesota Vikings football fan. That's kind of strange since I live nowhere near Minnesota, being an Ohio boy and all. What is even funnier is I rarely got to see the Vikings play. You have to remember back in those days there were only three television networks (yes folks, Fox wasn't even around then) and Sundays only had two football games on TV. The CBS network here in CBUS is channel 10 and they carried the NFL later NFC games. The NBC station is channel 4 who carried AFL then AFC games. That's the way it was for many years.

Being in Ohio we saw a lot of Cleveland Browns games which is why they are likely the team I'd call my second favorite, but, somehow the Vikings grabbed hold of me. I think it must have been the purple uniforms with the horn on the helmet and a little quarterback named Fran Tarkenton that would run around for his life trying to throw a pass. In the early days I remember them playing the Packers and usually losing. The Vikings weren't very good back in the day.

But the one player that for some reason stood out to me and became my favorite was a running back named Dave Osborn. He was my football hero. He wore number 41 which is why it has always been my favorite number. As a young lad, I thought he was the greatest running back in the league.

This is where you look fondly back on your memories and Google squashes them with a heaping dose of reality. A few months ago I googled (I guess it's a verb now) Dave Osborn of the Minnesota Vikings. To my utter astonishment and amazement I learned his stats tended to classify him as nothing more than a very average running back, although he lasted twelve seasons in the NFL which is a remarkable accomplishment especially back in those days. My boyhood hero never once rushed for a thousand yards in a single season.

It's amazing looking back at our childhood through adult eyes and experiences and seeing the world how it truly was. I guess sometimes it's better to just have memories and not worry about how the world turned when you were a little boy on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of winter watching football.

41 is still my favorite number...screw you Google.

Monday, July 29, 2019

It's the weekend

Well, it's not really the weekend any longer. That ended a day ago. But then it really doesn't matter to me. It's kind of a pet peeve.

The weekend? A peeve? Sure. We've all been brainwashed, well, at least most of us. I was listening to the radio on the way home when it started again last Friday.

What? you ask.

The brainwashing. If you listen to radio or even television, primarily newscasts, as Friday closes down they always mention the coming weekend and everybody takes off from work. That's a bunch of poppycock.

For me, I've never had a job - ever - that didn't require me to work on the weekends. From when I started out as a paperboy, a job that has almost vanished, to the car wash to all my years in retail. I've worked weekends all my life. But what annoys me is the thought that most people get to kick back and have two days off for the weekend. It's a hoax, a lie, a falsehood.

So, who works weekends? Everybody. Unless someone sits behind a desk for a living there's a good chance they work the weekends unless you're retired. Think about it. I'm sure the list of working is a lot longer than those who don't. If you work in a restaurant, you work weekends. Retail? Weekends no matter how large or small the company is. Heck, even banks have hours on Saturdays in these times. Oh, and don't forget about police, firefighters, most everyone who works in a hospital, well okay, we all know that most doctors don't really work on weekends. What about those who support the weekend newscasts? Yup, them too, and anyone who works in the hospitality industry, hotels, cooks, maids, etc. I know a zoo keeper. You think she gets the weekends off? Hahahahaha...

See what I mean? The list is getting longer the more you think about it. I remember a time when gas stations were closed on Sunday. If you wanted to take a Sunday drive you better make sure you filled up the gas tank on Saturday because you weren't going to find an open one on Sunday. Yup, I remember when almost all businesses were closed on at least Sunday. But those days are gone so lets start stop with all the 'here comes the weekend' crap.

I'm not really bitter about it. There's plenty of special activities that come to life for the small amount of folk who don't work on the weekends, I just get tired of hearing about it.

Okay, maybe I am bitter... maybe.

Monday, July 1, 2019

A July sale

Welcome to the month of July. Believe it or not, the year's half over. Less than six months of shopping before Christmas...(okay, I just had to say that).

If you've never had the opportunity to read any of my books, or were just too cheap to buy them at full price, (hey, I've gotta make a living too), now is your chance to pick up the titles I write under Bob Thomas. These books are of a more contemporary nature in how they are written as opposed to my fantasy books.

For the month of July, my sci-fi Home World series books and my cold war style novel are all on sale at smashwords.com. The are all 25% off for then entire month through July 31st.

Sooooo...., time to give me a look and a read.









 

Saturday, June 22, 2019

No turning back

Tomorrow is a momentous day in my life; it's my birthday. Yea me! But it's a different one. Well, every one is a different one Robert, you say. True enough. But this one sticks out.

I've never been one to worry about how old I became. I actually still don't. It never bothered me when I hit my thirties, forties, fifties or even sixties. I know some people this really bothers. I have always joked that middle age is ten years older than whatever age I currently am. The flaw in that is, I'm guessing middle age isn't when one is seventy years old. At least I have outlived that joke.

I was born in the fifties, grew up in the wild sixties which was really the decade that changed much of America and continued into the next decades. That also means I've lived in two centuries, which really isn't all that common these days. I am now living one-hundred and one years after my father was born. That kind of makes your head spin. Although he has been gone now for several decades, I still remember him before his heart issues. That's generally now I remember my father.

So, what is this momentous day? Tomorrow I turn 61. Sixty years of age is now behind me. You'd think that would be more of a nerve-rattling number than 61. But for the first time I've come to the realization...there's no turning back.

Happy Birthday to me! I hope everyone else enjoys their day as I hope to enjoy mine. 60 didn't hurt so I'm guessing 61 won't either.

Friday, June 21, 2019

NIght 3 - Still on Patrol

As a much shorter story than The Dragon and The Princess, this is the last installment of Still on Patrol. I hope all who find their way to this blog enjoy the work offered on these pages. Special thanks to the men and women of our Armed Forces to whom this is dedicated.

Night 3 --


     Frey stood to his full height and began to swing his hand down again onto the console but stopped himself. He had to stay calm. That was his job. He was captain of the boat and all his men looked to him. He needed to have nerves of steel.
     “What are they gaining by this?” the captain asked himself out loud.
     “If it is the North Koreans,” Torres replied, “maybe just to see if they can. A sub lost in the middle of the Pacific without proof to the outside world it was them.”
     “An astute hypothesis Mr. Torres,” Frey said as he looked up to him. “You a student of International Studies?” he asked with a slight grin.
     “International politics actually Captain. It was my major in college.” Torres looked down at the console as the number ticked off. “Do we return fire?”
     “Thirteen-hundred feet.”
     “Rules of engagement allow it,” Frey replied. “We have to have a target though.”
     “What if we launch decoy and let them fire? That’s should give us a firing solution.”
     “The other choice is to stay quiet. We can outlast them if they’re really diesel boats,” Frey replied.  “They’ll have to snorkel in a couple days.”
     “But I don’t like sitting here like a target.”
     “Me either.” Frey picked up the mic as he looked across the console at his XO. “Torpedo room, ready a decoy. Launch to starboard in three minutes. Set to course zero-nine-zero.”
     “Torpedo room aye,” came the reply.
     “Sonar, plot a firing solution from the decoy.”
     “Sonar aye.”
Silence hung over the close space, the narrowness of the small room becoming uncomfortable as the next two minutes passed as they waited ... waited.
     “Fourteen-hundred feet.”
     “Launch decoy,” Torres announced into the mic.
     “Decoy away,” came the reply.          
     The torpedo carrying the decoy launched with low pressure so not to make a discernable noise. It carried a recording of what a Virginia class submarine would sound like. If the decoy could draw fire, they would have a target.
     “Decoy tracking to course zero-nine-zero,” sonar announced.
     “Fifteen-hundred feet.” The Officer of the Deck looked around the control room at the faces he served with. He wasn’t the only one who looked at the inner hull of the boat. The Virginia hadn’t been this deep since refit.
     “Pressurized noises aft, high speed screws, heavy cavitation off the starboard beam.”
     “Second set of screws aft Captain,” Marchi announced. “Very loud. Six thousand yards dead astern.”
     “Third boat?” Frey asked wide-eyed. “Con, emergency flank, left full rudder!”
     “Helm, emergency flank, left full rudder,” Office of the Deck ordered.
     “Second set of screws port to starboard across the line of the boat dead astern.”
     “Con, belay that order!” Frey announced.
     “Contact Alpha heavy cavitation, popping noises,” Marchi announced.
Frey watched as his sonar operator lifted his hands to the headphones clamped to his ears and gently pulled them away. The acoustic hull of the Virginia vibrated with the pressure wave that washed over the boat as Vic Marchi let his headphones come back to rest on his ears.
     “Sonar, residual noise from contact alpha?” Frey asked.
     “Only miscellaneous sounds sir. Presume contact destroyed.” Vic leaned in toward his station as he screwed his eyes shut. “Heavy cavitation port beam, eleven-thousand yards. Fading.  Sounds like contact Bravo is moving off Captain.”
     “Do we have a savior?” Torres asked.
     “No other boats in this area I’m aware of,” Frey replied. “Recommendations?”
     “Slow surface,” Torres replied.
     The next sound vibrated throughout the hull, the tone distinct and clear, a sound every man whom ever wore the dolphins on his collar knew instinctively.
     “We’ve been pinged Captain,” sonar announced.
     “I’m aware of that Mr. Marchi,” Frey replied. “Con bring us up, surface.”
     “Helm, ten degrees up bubble on the planes, all ahead one-half.”
     “Helm aye, ten degrees up bubble on the planes, all ahead one-half.”
     The next thirty minutes was agonizingly quiet within the boat as the USS Virginia began her slow rise to the majestic surface waters of the South Pacific. Stephen Frey had undergone his first live fire engagement as captain of the boat. It was something he had hoped he would never come to realize, never have to face in the real world. But his was a world of secrecy, the secrecy of a world few would ever know.
     Stephen Frey pushed the hatch open on the top of the sail climbing up into the fresh air and sunshine of the southern world. He scanned the horizon quickly catching the dark shape off in the distance, the black line cutting through the waters that rose to a submarine’s sail. It was fading into the distance, its course not aligned with his own. His XO slipped up beside him and trained his glasses on the boat.
     “There’s a number on the sail,” Torres said.
     “We don’t do that any more,” Frey noted. “They stopped doing that several years ago. What’s it say?”
     “593”.
     “Are you sure? Look again.” Torres nodded as he noted the sudden agitation of his captain.
     “Yes sir, 593,” he replied as he lowered his glasses. “Something wrong sir?”
Stephen Frey’s face went ashen as the realization of that number made his frame shiver, his body breaking out into a cold sweat as he watched the boat in the distance slide silently back beneath the waves of the warm Pacific.
     “Mr. Torres, do you understand the phrase ‘eternal patrol’?”
     “I’ve heard of it Captain. Why?” Torres looked out at the sail of the distant object sank below the waves. “Whose boat is that?”
     “That number belongs to only one boat,” Frey replied as he looked somberly back out to sea... USS Thresher.”


In April 1963 the US Navy submarine USS Thresher
was lost at sea with all hands. She is considered
still on patrol by the Navy


Dedicated to those men who never made it home
 And are on Eternal Patrol

Special thanks to former Petty Officer James E. Walker
USS Sea Devil (SSN-664) - United States Navy
For his expertise on this subject

Still on Patrol © Robert Thomas 2019



Thursday, June 20, 2019

Still on Patrol - night 2

Welcome to night two of the short story Still on Patrol. This is a different type of story than most who may have followed my writings are used to. It is a present day military story set aboard a United States submarine. This story will wrap up in another night or two. I hope you enjoy the passage for this evening.

Night 2 --


     Frey looked up to his XO with a frown. “Sonar, what do you have?”
     They could feel the vibration in the water as the torpedo exploded one-hundred yards to starboard aft quarter.
     “That was too close,” Torres said.
     “Nothing Captain. Towed array shows nothing.”
     “Run a diagnostic as quickly as possible.”
     “It was fully functional at sea trial,” Torres commented.
     “I’m aware of that,” Frey replied. “We wouldn’t have put to sea if it wasn’t.”
Torres stepped back letting his captain have full access to the console. He’d misspoke wanting to have something to say.
     “Captain, all sonar systems seem to be functioning to specs,” the operator announced. “Still no signal to detect.”
     “How is that possible,” Frey muttered to himself.
     “Whoever this is, they may have been waiting for us.”
     “That’s a distinct possibility Commander. I can’t believe we wouldn’t have heard something, anything.”
     “Do was have any analysis of the torpedo?” Torres asked.
     “Washing it through the computer now sir.” It took only seconds before Torres had a reply.              “Computer has it as a Russian 111 torpedo.”
     “Russian!” Torres said. “Damn.”
     “Contact aft. Eight-thousand yards,” sonar called out.
     “Designate Alpha,” Frey ordered. “Signature?”
     “Just a low hum so far Captain. Then it cut out.” The sonar operator looked up toward the center of the boat. “Nothing now,” he replied as he pressed his hands against his headphones again. “Wait ... hum again. Very low frequency.” He looked up again. “Captain, this isn’t coming from the same direction. Port beam, approximately ten-thousand yards.”
     “Is that firm?”
     “No sir,” Ensign Vic Marchi replied. “It was only there for a couple seconds. I need a longer signal to dial it in.”
     “Two boats. Damn.” Frey looked up to his Exec. “Options.”
     “We move dead slow Captain. The pulse drive will have no cavitation noise for them, whoever they are to draw in on. Right now, we’re as big a hole in the water as they are.”
     “And they’ve shown their hand,” Frey replied.
     “Have they?” Torres looked directly at his commanding officer. “Sir, we don’t know that there are only two. We’re guessing.”
     “Point taken.” Frey turned back to the sonar operator. “Run your acoustic signature through the computer.”
     “Already done Captain. Nothing firm but best guess is Russian diesel boats. Not enough to guess at a classification.”
     “They could be boats sold off to China or worse, Korea,” Torres said.
     “A distinct possibility with the current state of affairs above the water,” Frey replied. “I have a hard time thinking Russia would just lay in wait to ambush a boat. They’ve got nothing to gain.  Now North Korea, yeah. They’re just crazy enough to do that.”
     “How would they even know where we were?”
     “A leak, Mr. Torres. Remember, this isn’t a military mission. There are all kinds of ways this thing could have leaked out to someone we aren’t friendly with.”
     Frey looked around the control room of his boat. This was the first time his command had come under live fire. Everything else had been drills; so called live fire events that really weren’t live fire. You couldn’t risk a 2.4 billion dollar piece of equipment with an accident. The tension was thick. He could see the small drops of sweat running down the faces of nearly everyone within view; except his XO.
     “We go down,” Frey announced. “Con, ahead dead slow. Take her down easy. No noise. Make your depth fifteen hundred feet.”
     “Con aye,” came the reply. He could see his officer swallow hard. “Helm, ahead dead slow. Making depth for fifteen-hundred feet.”
     “Steer for heading one-five degrees.”
     “Steering for heading zero-one-five degrees aye.”
     “If they don’t read us we’ll be able to slip directly away from them,” Torres said.
     “If they don’t hear us Mr. Torres,” his captain replied. “If they don’t hear us.”
     “Popping noises aft Captain,” Marchi announced.
     “That’s odd,” Frey said as he looked to his XO. “Distance.”
     “Nine-thousand yards.”
     “Either they don’t think we’re still here or they have an older boat,” Torres said.
     “I wouldn’t make the assumption we weren’t here if I just fired on someone.” Frey turned back toward the sonar station. “Anything on contact Bravo?”
     “Nothing sir.”
     “Eight-hundred feet,” the Officer of the Deck called. “Coming up on heading zero-one-five degrees.”
     “Heavy cavitation! High speed screws aft!” Marchi yelled.
     “Full speed,” Frey called. “Left full rudder.”
     “Nine hundred feet.”
     “Screws are coming nowhere near us Captain.”
     “Damn!” Frey yelled as he slammed his fist on the console. “They needed us to let them know where we were and I walked right into it.” His face reddened with a menacing scowl.
     “High speed screws in the water starboard. Five-thousand yards.”
     “Ready counter measures. Launch at fifteen-hundred yards,” Torres ordered.
     “Counter measures aye,” came the reply.
     “Steady on turn,” Frey announced. “Come to new heading two-seven-zero degrees. He looked over his crew again. Gone were the initial jitters he recognized when an action first begins. His crew was settling into the jobs. Jobs they’ve been training for years to do.
     “One-thousand feet,” came the call.
     “Inbound screws at fifteen-hundred yards,” Marchi called out.
     “Torpedo room,” Torres said loudly into the mic, “launch noisemakers.”
     “Eleven-hundred feet.”
     “Right full rudder,” Frey called.
     “Right full rudder aye.”
     “Screws fading away, passing aft seven-hundred yards.”
     “Thank you Mr. Marchi,” Frey said. “Con, come to dead slow, continue decent. Make your heading three-six-zero degrees.”
     “Twelve-hundred feet.”
     “All ahead dead slow,” the Officer of the Deck announced. “Steering to heading three-six-zero degrees.”
     “Making ourselves a hole in the water again sir?” Torres asked.
     “We are.”