Formerly known as "Cruzers in Korea"

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Run Duck Run!

Saturday, March 31, 2012 4

During summer breaks away from VMI, on the weeks when I wasn't aboard a Navy ship during my midshipmen summer training cruises, I was off earning my keep and being a contributing member of the society known as Virginia Beach.  Many of my college peers were smart enough to strap on business attire and do administrative support type work in cushy, air-conditioned offices for their temporary summer jobs.  As for me, I was barely one level above an illegal migrant worker hopping into the back of a total stranger's pickup truck loaded with farm animals to break my back with some serious blister-producing man labor.  And you know what, I've got zero regrets about sweating my tail off during those "summer breaks."  There's something very humbling about good old-fashioned manual labor.  We need to teach our kids this lesson.  God loves a hard worker.

And so my destiny in life for a few summers was to be a member of the Timberlake Community Association maintenance crew.  Our charter was to keep the homeowner's association happy by maintaining the grounds.  We were the silent refrigerator trolls that scurried around out of sight, beautifying the neighborhood and raising property values whenever the refrigerator door closed.  We landscaped, cut grass with tractors and mowers, manicured the curbs with edgers, and took a weedeater to every square inch of that huge community.

Whenever a private homeowner was lax with their lawn mowing duties of their own personal property, they would receive a nasty-gram from the homeowner's association.  If they didn't cut their grass after several warnings, the association would call in the maintenance crew to cut the slacker's yard - whether they wanted it cut or not.  It was communism at its finest.  The cherry on top was the over-inflated bill these slackers would receive in their mailbox shortly after the covert grass cutting.  These homeowners were never pleased to have total strangers cutting their yards.

I remember one angry old man standing in his doorway as we're about to crank up our faithful Toro mower, cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth with two inches of ash barely hanging on, beer-stained wifebeater t-shirt covering his gut, and double-barreled shotgun at his side.  I swear I heard him mutter under his Pabst Blue Ribbon breath, "Go ahead, mow my lawn."  Yeah, we weren't gonna take a chance on that one.  Considering that the best years of our lives were still in front of us and that our current salaries were just a smidge north of minimum wage, we collectively decided that we wouldn't test that guy's resolve on that sweltering day.  I can imagine that old guy's explanation while proudly standing over our dead corpses, "They were on my property officer!"

We encountered a wide gamut of characters during these attempted "forced mowings."  At one end of the spectrum was the trigger happy old man wielding a shotgun.  At the other end was the slightly attractive cougar clad in her open bathrobe revealing enough cleavage to make Christina Aguilera blush.  Btw, have you seen Christina as a judge and mentor on the singing competition show, "The Voice?"  My gosh girl, cover those things up.  It's incredibly distracting.  Makes for a titillating show, but still.  Anyway, back to the cougar.  I think this Mrs. Robinson wannabe was purposely letting her garden grow just so she could get a rise out of our sweaty band of migrant workers.  It worked.

And so one of the funniest memories from my days as an, ahem, Professional Landscape Technician, was when one of the filipino guys on the crew started eyeballing the ducks.  It was a nice neighborhood with several quaint ponds.  The ducks were plentiful.  During the spring, the yellow ducklings would follow Mama duck around.  Cars would politely stop as the train of ducks would cross the streets.  Very cute stuff.

Well, my filipino buddy hadn't been in the US for all that long.  His accent was still very thick and more importantly, his attitude on life was still thick with the filipino culture and life challenges.  It can be tough living in the Philippines to say the least.  I saw that with my own two eyes when I visited my parents in the PI back in 2008.  Depending on where you live, food can be hard to come by, especially meat.

As time passed, my buddy's infatuation with the ducks steadily grew.  It was pretty funny watching this grown man chase the ducks around and never catching them.  This guy knew how to make us laugh.  The work we were doing was back breaking stuff.  I felt like the kid from Charlie Brown that always had the dust cloud surrounding him.  I had multiple callouses on my hands from whacking weeds all day long and was extremely dark from hours sweating under that Virginia Beach sun.  And so my friend's dalliance with the ducks was much needed comic relief.

Until one day, he chased down one of the neighborhood ducks, caught it, took it home, cooked it, and ate it for dinner.

I guess he wasn't joking after all.  I'm pretty sure he only did it once.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Super Ariel!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 0

Friday, March 23, 2012

Flashback Friday

Friday, March 23, 2012 0
Uncle Don and Alexis

This was from Alexis' 16th birthday party down in the country.  I think Alexis will be like her Mom in that she will always keep the family close to her heart.

So if you have room on your prayer request card, please pray for Uncle Don's health.  Like brother Steve preached at church this past Sunday, nothing is impossible with God.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - The Joys of Moving

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 1

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Paddy's Day!

Saturday, March 17, 2012 0

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, here's a flashback from the summer of 1996.  That's me and Matt "Joose" Tobler in Dublin, Ireland.  As if being in Ireland while aboard the USS JOHN F. KENNEDY wasn't good enough, Joose and I were incredibly fortunate to have been chosen to do the airshow at Dublin International Airport.  Airshows are the best.  We got to fly our mighty S-3B Viking into Dublin proper.  My guess is that's the first Viking to ever touch ground in Ireland.  A couple of other squadronmates got to do another airshow at the same time at the airport in Shannon, Ireland.  Before the airshow even started, the Airwing did a big flyover of the city.  I forget exactly how many jets were in the flyover but it was a bunch.

That port call in Ireland was one of the best weeks of my entire Navy career.  We expected the people to be friendly and they didn't disappoint in the least.  The entire country was super excited about the Kennedy's visit.  There was even a nationwide lottery held for tickets to visit the ship.  Word got out that some of the Irish citizens that won these tickets were selling them for hundreds and even thousands of dollars.  And all the ticket got you was a tour aboard the aircraft carrier.  I think it was the first time that an aircraft carrier had ever visited Ireland.

The airshow hosts were fantastic.  They treated us to special events on a daily basis.  I remember visiting castles, seeing the US Ambassador to Ireland and other big wigs, sipping Guinness in taverns that were built in the 1500s, and having some incredible seven course meals.  They bought a brand new fleet of vehicles just to support the aircrew.  Making some new friends was one of the best parts of the whole experience.  I'm hoping to get back to Ireland one day.  We shall see.

When it's time for some well deserved rest and relaxation, sailors love to hang out in their civilian clothes while on liberty.  So there was some moaning among the JFK crew when the Commanding Officer of the ship put out the guidance that sailors going on liberty ashore had to be dressed in their summer whites.  That moaning came to a screeching halt though after the first day of liberty.  For that blessed crew of the great ship JOHN F. KENNEDY, led by CAPT "Fast" Eddie Fahey, and those under the charge of CAG "Condo" Capalbo of Carrier Airwing Eight, in that specific moment in time, in that magical wonderland known as Dublin, clad in those dashing summer whites, this epic port call would be the closest any of us would come to being rock stars.

If you had on your summer whites, you couldn't pay for a beer.  People were asking for your autograph.  You were kissing babies.  It was insane.  A good buddy of mine described the experience as being trapped in a prison full of hot chicks with a handful of pardons.  And unlike those mere mortals that had to return to the ship as liberty expired at midnight (or later depending on your rank), Joose and I had no such boundaries because of our lofty airshow status.  No Cinderella carriage turning into a pumpkin for us.  For the record, Joose and I were, and still are, very happily married men.  No funny business for us.

If I had some foresight, I would've predicted this internet/blogging thing and taken more pictures.  Carol just reminded me that the reason I only have this one picture to show from the Ireland trip is because I was so incredibly busy picking out the perfect gift for her.  Of course she told me this while doubled over in laughter.  In one of the dumbest moments in Chris Cruz history, I came home from Ireland with nothing but a stinking airshow t-shirt for Carol.  Deservedly so, I'll never live that one down.  No Waterford crystal, Celtic jewelry or Irish hand-knitted sweater.  Nope.  And I'm usually pretty good about that stuff.  Guess I just lost my mind or something.  Must've been the cider.

Anyway, I better close this out before I get myself into more trouble.  It's never good to remind your better half of the really dumb things you do.  A t-shirt?  Sheesh Chris.  Happy St. Paddy's Day.
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