What’s Really Keeping America Safe

It’s with a heavy heart and a whole lot of angst that I’m writing this blog. The United States is now in its 34th day of a government shutdown that Donald Trump, our ersatz president gleefully takes credit for. The scenario has the emperor Nero written all over it. For those of you who were smoking in the boy’s or girl’s bathroom during that history lesson, Nero was the sadistic emperor who played his fiddle while Rome burned. Sound familiar?

The Coast Guard along with countless thousands of others are now facing the second payday without a paycheck. Part of the strumpet’s coterie suggests these hardworking folks go to their local grocery store and tell the manager, they can’t pay now, but they’ll pay later. That would be laughable if it wasn’t so pathetic. As if the grocery stores don’t have to meet their own overhead and pay salaries.

Or how about this. When your credit card bill and your mortgage payment come due, the president wants you to pick up the phone and tell the nice person at the other end you are a government employee and you’re sacrificing yourself so he can build a wall for his supporters. Do you know how stupid that sounds?

Imagine telling 40,000 Coast Guard men and women that the sacrifices they make day in and day out is not enough. “Now you must sacrifice even more so I can build a wall.” And this coming from the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. If I wrote a book with this stuff in it, my agent would laugh me out of her office.

Of course, the Strumpet isn’t the only one to blame for the terrible predicament the Coast Guard and other federal employees are in. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell evidently thinks his job is to be head cheerleader for the president of the U.S. Now there’s someone who must have been smoking in the boy’s bathroom when civics was being taught.

Our forefathers set up our government with three branches. The Senate and the Congress are supposed to make laws. Not the president. If the president doesn’t like what’s put before him, he can veto it. It’s then up to the Congress and the Senate to get enough votes to override his veto and make their proposal into a law.

Instead of assuming the unpleasant task of confronting the president, McConnell has, instead, decided to climb into bed with the strumpet. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin would be infuriated if they could see this scenario being played out.

I don’t know how long this shutdown will continue, but I want to put a few salient facts about the Coast Guard before you. And if you’re not angered by what is being done to the members of the USCG, you’re part of the problem. If you are angered, then let the politicians know how furious you are, and let them know you have a long memory, a memory that stretches to the next elections in 2020.

If you do nothing, then when planes begin dropping out of the sky because air traffic controllers can’t do their job properly, when security at our ports falters, when the USCG can’t buy the gas they need to run their boats and helicopters to perform their Search-and-Rescue missions, you really must accept your part in this fiasco.

Maybe you know a Coastie who is struggling to make ends meet, maybe you know an air traffic controller whose mind is distracted because he can’t pay his kid’s medical bills, or maybe you know some other government worker who’s been told to take a job as an Uber driver or get a loan which will have to be paid back with double- digit interest while the billionaires in Washington waddle to their five-star restaurants and hotels, insulated from reality.

Support our unpaid patriots in whatever way you can. They’re hardworking folks just like you and me, and they don’t deserve to be betrayed by their Commander-in-Chief or other politicians in Washington. A couple of bucks, a gift card to help them through the crisis, a donation to a local food pantry; it’s all good. Contact the Coast Guard in your area. They’ll give you some ideas. Donate to the USO who’s also involved in assisting these dedicated men and women, being treated like shameless pawns.

Did You know…

  1. The Coast Guard is part of Homeland Security and not independent like the Navy, Army, or Air Force. During war, the Coast Guard comes under the Navy. The Coast Guard keeps us a lot more secure than a wall ever will.
  2. Semper Paratus is the motto of the Coast Guard. It means Always ready. I wonder if the men and women of the Coast Guard were ready to be betrayed by the politicians in Washington.
  3. The Coast Guard was founded Aug. 4, 1790 at the request of Alexander Hamilton, the Secretary of the Treasury. There was a lot of turmoil in the government then, but they managed to work things out. I bet if he saw how the clowns in Washington are acting today, he’d come after them with a horsewhip.
  4. The Coast Guard not only provides security around the world as well as rescuing boaters, but they employ ice breakers and provide for safe navigation by tending buoys all over the U.S.
  5. If you’re a bad dude, better watch out for the DOG, the Coast Guard’s Deployable Operations Group. This counter-terrorism group hits fast and hard. I bet their job is a lot harder with the government shutdown. I wonder if the president cares.
  6. On average, the Coast Guard conducts over 100 Search-and-Rescues a day and saves ten lives. Since the government shutdown, that’s 350 lives saved on average. Is a wall meant to flatter an over-inflated ego worth that many lives?
  7. In an average year, the Coast Guard interdicts over 100 tons of cocaine. I guess Trump wouldn’t be interested in knowing the Coast Guard didn’t sail their boats into the middle of farmland bordering Mexico to do that. They actually did it on water which means security on the seas and in ports is what is key to keeping America safe. Not a wall.
  8. Every year the Coast Guard conducts over 1,400 boardings of ships suspected to be high risk to national safety. Remember, that’s just in one year. If the president is so concerned about the safety of America, maybe he should spend a hell of a lot more money providing the Coast Guard with the tools it needs to do its job.

 

                                  Bill Hegerich

                                   The Uncommon Mariner

 

 

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Welcome to 2019

Welcome to 2019. With the dawning of this new year, comes great hope. Hope that our lives will be better, that each of us, in our own way, will find a way to make our lives and those of others better.

Two thousand and eighteen was a good year. Before you decide to complain about how terrible it was personally or globally, let me paraphrase the curmudgeon Judge Judy. “You’re alive. Does it look like you’re losing?”

The state of South Carolina ranks close to last for things no one wants to write home to their mother about. Spousal abuse, economic well-being, and education and health. Yet it has a wonderful motto: Dum spiro, spero. “While I breathe, I hope.” A lot of not so nice things transpired last year personally and worldwide that it would be easy to lose hope.

I discovered mold issues in my house which caused a major drain on my time, resources, and energy. I had a truck on its last legs, at least they looked like legs when the mechanic put it up on the lift. My wife struggled with bad knees and legs and has been reminded of the pain with every step. The international community saw one of the greatest countries in the world alienate all its allies and suck up to despotic regimes that the rest of the globe has been trying to neutralize for over 75 years. Catholics and Baptists have had their faith betrayed by child molesters and their leaders, leaders whom they trusted for guidance and inspiration.

But the news wasn’t all bad. My agent who recently moved from Boston to Texas, has continued to represent and guide me along with many other writers. I doubt anyone not connected to the publishing world can appreciate the challenges and sacrifices she makes.

My wife wakes up every morning with a hopeful heart and throws herself head on into activities she loves. She continues to create shell wreaths that adorn homes throughout the Grand Strand of South Carolina. My daughter in the Coast Guard has taken over a challenging job at Sector Charleston, managing critical areas in personnel and resources. She would be embarrassed if I elaborated on the impact her personal efforts are making on her fellow officers and her charges. With Donald Trump’s government shutdown, no doubt her job has been made that much more difficult.

My son continues to work as a teacher in the Toms River school district where he inspires hundreds of high school students. I doubt he has an inkling of the impact he’s making on those lives. When not devoting his time to his profession, he pursues a Master’s Degree in genocide studies. Perhaps the world would be a much kinder and gentler place if more people acquired the sensitivity that kind of experience brings.

My other daughter, Jennifer, is now in her fifteenth year working as a counselor for Vocational Rehabilitation in South Carolina. Her wide array of clients includes elderly folks recovering from debilitating operations and diseases to younger clients with a variety of needs. Some are just hard-working folks who have fallen on hard times. Others are former prisoners and drug addicts seeking a new start in life.

In the midst of all the chaos, one thing remains that will see us through the hard times ahead. Hope. The recluse poet, Emily Dickinson, who in her lifetime, barely traveled a few hundred miles from her home, put it best.

“Hope is the thing with feathers,

That perches in the soul.

And sings the tune without the words,

And never stops at all.”

            Hope is like that. It’s quiet but real and will sustain you in hard times, no matter who you are.

As the new year, in its infancy, dawns, I wish you a fantastic 2019. Following is a piece I wrote last year that others have requested as a reprint, so I’m offering it to you as a New Year’s gift. May it help you reach deep into your soul where Hope lives and rediscover the strength and light you need to live the best year of your life.

We’re two weeks into the New Year and by now most people have blown their New Year’s Resolutions. Still working out every day? Missed two days the first week and the second week wasn’t any better. Showed up two days. That diet you’ve been on? Some have gained another pound or two trying to get rid of that holiday candy calling their name.

            But I’m not too concerned about that gym resolution or those few pounds that found their way to your waist. Doctors and psychologists will tell you it’s normal for people to break those kinds of resolutions shortly after they’re made unless they’re tied to a profound commitment to change.

And that’s why I’m offering you a second chance. A second chance to make some meaningful New Year Resolutions that will have a huge impact on your life. These twelve resolutions have less to do with diet and exercise and more to do with altering the behavior that will get you to the Far Side of the World where your Pirate Dreams await.

  1. Don’t surround yourself with negative people. These are people who make you feel small. People who laugh at your dreams. They may also be the people who get real quiet when you talk about your dreams instead of getting excited.
  2. Have a goal to work on every day. You always need to keep your Dream before you and do something small towards achieving it. It’s how you turn goals into GOLD.
  3. Forget the past. Forget the people who were mean to you, who gossiped about you, who failed when you needed help. Their negativity will consume too much of your energy. Don’t give them that power.
  4. When you’re tempted to quit, remember your dreams and why you held on for so long. They’re the reason you’ll hold on when the storms of life blow again.
  5. Have an island to go to. A retreat where you can rest when life is overbearing. It can be a room in your house, a corner of your yard, or simply a chair that offers comfort and a nice view. I’m lucky. I have an alcove in my bedroom with a sofa surrounded by bookcases brimming with books. I also have a sunporch and a backyard retreat with several hidden coves I can lose myself in. I can also retreat to Brookgreen Gardens only a stone’s throw from my house where the landscape and art work is salve to my soul.
  6. Take time to have fun every day. Jimmy Buffett once said, “Having fun is a good habit to get into.” It’s why children are so resilient when they get hurt emotionally and physically. They know how important it is to have fun.
  7. Take time to count your blessings. You’re richer than you think. Recognize all the good things working for you. Touch them mindfully every single day. If you’re not taking the time to savor the small things in your life, you’re killing it off.
  8. Enjoy the journey. If you wait until you reach a goal to be happy, you’re throwing away all the days you’re working to get there.
  9. Forgive yourself. We all mess up. When you fall, get up and keep going. Failure is not permanent unless you stay down. And remember people who remind you of your shortcomings, failings, and mistakes, aren’t your friends. Not to be too blunt about it, but in a sailor’s language, people who do that are scumbags that you don’t need in your life. The New Year is a good time to jettison them just as you would any other garbage mucking up your life.
  10. Raise your sails. The winds of opportunity may blow, but it does you no good if you stay in harbor.
  11. Don’t accept excuses from yourself. Somedays the storms of life never seem to stop blowing, but when your boat get swamped, bail it out, get yourself afloat, and sail on. Sitting your soggy ass in port feeling sorry for yourself isn’t going to get you any closer to the Island of your Dreams.
  12. Finally, don’t let fear paralyze you. I always remind my pirate wife that fear always makes the cannons seem louder than they are. The remedy is to act. The smallest action will get you moving and break the chains of fear holding you back.

I hope the New Year 2019 holds a world of adventure for you with blessings that you can only begin to guess at. But if you expect to make it one for the record books, you have to hoist that anchor. God may provide the wind, but you have to raise those sails. Good luck and see you out there on the Far Side of the World. Even if you’ve never met me, you’ll recognize me instantly. I’ll be the one yelling and screaming at the top of my lungs enjoying every swell and every dip on the High Seas of Life.

                                                   Bill Hegerich

                                                   The Uncommon Mariner

Halloween Advice for Pirates

What happened when the pirates argued about who should keep the skeleton?
For the answer see the end of the blog.

It’s hard to believe Halloween is almost here. Pirates know something about that holiday. Let’s face it who knows more about scary things like skeletons and things that go bump in the night. Especially since so many pirates were turned into skeletons over the years.

I’ve noticed a lot of advice being given to trick-or-treaters these past couple weeks. It’s good advice for kids who dare to go out in the dark, facing unknown dreads just for a little bit of candy. You won’t find genuine pirates facing their fears for a Snickers bar. Maybe a little rum, or a pretty wench, or a little gold, but it’s going to take more than a Mary Jane or some stale popcorn to get me out of me easy chair.  It was a Mary Jane that ripped out half my fillings one Halloween when I was a kid.

A lot of the advice kids get is good, sound information. Travel in groups. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Watch out for obstacles. Not every adult is your friend. Check something carefully before consuming it. That’s advice every pirate should heed.

For example, a lot more pirates would have survived the Golden Age of Piracy if they stayed in groups. And even more would be alive if they didn’t take unnecessary risks. Blackbeard should have paid attention to that one. After an intense exchange of firepower, a ship that attacked him appeared to be lifeless. Instead of letting things alone, he had his men board the ship. Was he ever surprised when a whole regiment of soldiers and sailors suddenly poured on deck and decimated his crew.

And Captain Kidd was thinking more like a kid when he sailed to New York and met with the very man he trusted would exonerate him. Lord Bellomont may have held a respectable position as governor, but he certainly was not his friend. Kidd trusted two passes to Bellomont, passes that would have cleared his name. Instead, the passes mysteriously vanished, Kidd was put on trial, hanged, and his body left to rot on a dock where other sailors could view his remains for months to come. I bet Jamie Lee Curtis or Freddy Kreuger didn’t have to face anything like that.

Moms and dads have the bases covered when it comes to protecting their kids this Halloween, but I’m a little worried about pirates because some of the great advice kids are given is just plain terrible for a buccaneer.

For example, someone told his kid not to wear an eye-patch because it would obstruct his view. That’s terrible advice for a pirate. I mean what do you expect a bloke with one eye to wear? Besides when you’re being attacked by a one-eyed pirate with a black eye-patch, you’re probably going to think twice about fighting back.

Adults also tell kids to wear bright clothing so they can easily be seen. When you’re a pirate, being easily seen is the last thing you want to happen. How do you think pirates got their hands on all that booty not to mention their wench’s booty over the years?

Another piece of advice that is just plain wrong is wearing reflective tape on your costume. You can’t be serious! Bartholomew Roberts would still be alive today if he didn’t do something similarly stupid. He used to dress up in bright fine clothes with gold chains and other jewelry around his neck. Can you guess what happened to him at the very beginning of one battle? I’ll give you a hint. It was his last battle, and not because he retired.

Kids are told not to carry pointed sword, sticks, or other sharp objects. Now that is excellent advice. BUT NOT FOR PIRATES! I wouldn’t want to be the one to tell pirates before they go out to leave their swords below deck. I think you can imagine where they would stick them before I finished giving such fine advice.

Finally, kids are warned to avoid dark places. Now that’s sound advice for a kid on any night of the year. The trouble is that’s where pirates do their best work. And I can’t think of a better place for a pirate to cozy up with his wench than a quiet, dark place.

Halloween is almost here, so I gotta go. I have to look for my eye-patch and check to make sure my sword is sharp enough for whatever things I meet that go bump in the night. Then I’m going to grab me pirate wench and find a nice dark, cozy room.

Happy Halloween and stay safe.

                                      Bill Hegerich

                                      The Uncommon Mariner

                                      Riddle Answer: It became a bone of contention.

Thirsty Pirates

“I like beer. Do you like beer? All my friends like beer. Gee! I wish I had one now.”

I can’t help but imagine Blackbeard or the crew of Calico Jack Rackham saying those words with gusto. Or Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. He said so himself when he testified before the Senate committee recently.

I don’t think he helped his case much. When you’re pretty much fighting for your political life, how smart is it to brag about your excessive drinking habits?

I mean you’re more or less applying for one of the most important positions in government, and you don’t have the judicial smarts to tone it down? It’s more like the man was applying for a seat on the board of Anheuser-Busch who makes lots of beer, good beer. Or maybe he had a mental lapse and thought he was applying for the job of CEO of Brown-Forman, the company that makes Jack Daniels whiskey.

Pirates would surely welcome Kavanaugh into their circle. After all, what bunch of rum-guzzling, beer-swilling alcoholics wouldn’t want a Supreme Court Justice along for the ride? Pirates would probably find him quite helpful when their cases came to trial. “Charged with murder, mayhem, and robbery on the high seas? Not to worry! The judge is one of us.”

Of course, not all pirates swilled rum. In fact, they guzzled anything that had alcohol in it. Beer though did just fine. There’s one pirate, however, that was a teetotaler. That was Bartholomew Roberts. I think he probably tried to curtail his crew’s drinking, but I’m not certain he was all that successful.

Most people are surprised to learn that beer was an important part of a sailor’s diet in the 1700 and 1800’s. But there can be too much of a good thing. Because beer and ale spoiled on long voyages, rum became an important drink. When it became apparent performing one’s duties with a buzz was a risky business, Admiral Edward Vernon ordered that a sailor’s half pint of rum rations be cut with a quart of water. Because he wore a coat made of grogram, his concoction was eventually nicknamed grog.

It’s too bad Brett Kavanaugh wasn’t around a couple hundred years ago to serve in the Royal Navy. I think he would have found a home there though I think he would have enjoyed life more on a pirate ship where drinking and wenching were encouraged.

I like beer. Do you like beer? The trouble with beer or any other alcoholic drink is you’re a drunk if every night you’re having quite a few. Eventually, drinking too much is going to catch up with you whether you’re a pirate or a judge.

Speaking of judge, it’s no surprise that alcohol affects your ability to make clear judgments. That’s why it’s easy to scarf down a bag of potato chips and a plate full of sweets when you’re half in the bag despite your best intentions.

If you’re a pirate loading a cannon or a judge making life-and-death decisions, I have to wonder what faulty judgments could cost someone an eye or a hand or worse. For example, did you know that alcohol has been responsible for the demise of a lot of pirates. Jack Rackham and his crew got so drunk that they couldn’t fight when pirate hunters descended on their ship?

Want to know who defended the ship and the drunken crew who cowered below deck? Two women who people in those days believed were incapable of doing anything except looking pretty. Ann Bonny and Mary Read fought the British Navy side by side till they were so outnumbered that they were forced to surrender.

Would you be surprised if I told you before Jack Rackham was hanged, Ann Bonny reminded Jack of that night. “If ye had fought like a man, ye wouldn’t have to die like a dog.”

Beer? Rum? Or as Jimmy Buffett would say: “Tequila? Of course, I’ll have some.” He may have said it jokingly, but he would agree it’s good to know when to say when.

Ben Franklin once said, “Beer is proof that God loves us.” I guess for pirates and politicians who indulge in happy hour that meant “the more I drink, the more God must love me.” I don’t know if Judge Kavanaugh thinks like that. What I do know is he likes beer. He told us so in his own words. Several times.

John Ciardi once said, “All things in moderation. Including moderation.” So I think I’ll have a beer. If Blackbeard were here, I wouldn’t mind sharing one with him. I don’t think I’d want to have one with Brett Kavanaugh any time soon. I don’t like people who pretend they’re being honest when they’re covering up more than they’re revealing.

For example, he stated at the Senate hearing that boofed means farting when in fact it refers to anal sex. He also stated that the Devil’s Triangle was a drinking game. The truth is it refers to two men having sex with a woman. He may have written those words in his high school yearbook a long time ago, but he outright lied about their real meanings just last week before millions of people. What’s disturbing to me is that if he’s willing to lie about that, what else is he willing to lie about?

And I don’t like men who yell at women in a professional setting. Where’s the dignity and respect that’s called for? Or does that go out the window with good judgment when you have that first shot of vodka?

I like pirates. They’re a no-nonsense, genuine bunch. I like beer. But what I especially like are pirates who like beer. I’m not too keen on politicians, especially politicians who drink beer and either can’t or don’t remember to tell the truth afterwards.

Tell me what you think. Do you like beer? Would you like to share one with pirates on a crowded ship? Or would you be more comfortable sharing one with Brett Kavanaugh in a nice quiet setting?

Now that I’ve finished this blog, I think I’ll have a beer. If only I could find that bottle opener my pirate wench hid on me. Maybe it’s next to Jimmy Buffett’s long, lost shaker of salt. Come to think of it, maybe I’ll have my mermaid make me a Margarita instead. That’ll leave an extra beer for Brett Kavanaugh. Aarrgh!!!

            Bill Hegerich

            The Uncommon Mariner

Gators in South Carolina: Low Risk but Real Danger

Gators and crocodiles are nothing to be trifled with. Whether in South Carolina or Florida use your common sense when encountering one.

On a website recently, a prospective tourist to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina asked if it was safe to visit because of the alligators. The person who answered did so with a pretty honest and forthright answer. “Come on down. The alligators are not crawling all over the place looking to make a meal out of the next unsuspecting tourist.”

Both visitors and residents of South Carolina should always keep in mind that they sometimes do share the ponds, lagoons, retention ponds, and occasional golf courses with gators. But that’s also true of snakes like copper heads, cottonmouths, and rattlesnakes. They were here first, and aren’t going anywhere soon.

You probably won’t find one strolling into a Denny’s restaurant on Highway 17 ordering a late-night snack any time soon. You’re not likely to find one stalking you as you try to sink a putt on your favorite golf course, but these creatures are around and require vigilance, awareness, and common sense.

I wrote a blog Summer Warning: Alligators a while back. In it I covered the potential hazards of encountering alligators mostly in Florida and even in the Caribbean while on vacation. But a disturbing incident this past week has led me to revisit the subject because alligators, though a low threat, are a reality not only along the Grand Strand of South Carolina but throughout the Lowcountry here.

Consider this. One evening on August 5, 2016, two women were astounded when they saw an alligator emerging from the surf in Myrtle Beach around 43rd Ave. The dogs they were walking were, no doubt, equally surprised.

At four feet long, the alligator was large enough to do serious harm to humans and pets, but after basking in the sand, the gator decided to go back for another dip. She then disappeared.

Just this past August 8, at Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach, an alligator literally snapped as onlookers fled in terror. In effect, a bridge connecting the two sides of Barefoot Landing was being held hostage by the alligator. A dog who encountered the gator could not be found for comment. Evidently the gator lost interest in both the bridge and the paparazzi who swarmed around for a selfie.

Last June 8, 2017, Mandy Johnson-Plucinski’s dog alerted her of a guest on her front porch. When she turned on her front porch light, a seven-foot alligator was grinning back at her. With no intention of going anywhere, the gator settled down to enjoy the warm summer evening as dusk turned into dark.

Russell Cavender, the Snake Chaser, arrived on the scene a little later, and a few hours later Mandy’s house was finally liberated. Authorities would not confirm if the gator was booked for trespassing, and once again, the dog could not be reached for comment.

Unfortunately, the next story does not have a happy ending and is a good reason for anyone wishing to protect themselves from alligator attacks, provoked or unprovoked, to read my blog  Summer Warning: Alligators at https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2016/06/18/summer-warning-alligators/.

On August 20, 2018, a 45-year-old woman was attacked by an alligator while walking her dog on Hilton Head Island, just south of Beaufort, South Carolina. The eight-foot alligator dragged the woman into a nearby lagoon where she died. The alligator more than likely was attracted to the dog, but something went terribly wrong during the attack.

There is no way to put a positive spin on this tragic event. Gators are common enough in South Carolina, and anyone active outdoors should understand that. While it’s not likely you’ll meet one, you should be aware of their possible presence and what to do if you encounter one.

Gators may seem exotic, and while it may be exciting to tell your friends at the bar how you met one and fed him your leftover Whopper, you’re only part of the problem. Gators are wild animals, and like bears, when exposed to humans, may attack, And if you’re not the victim when feeding one, you’re only making it that much more likely that the next person who meets it will be.

If you meet a gator, back away. Don’t feed it. Don’t even try to get close to it for a selfie. There’s a whole list of do’s and don’ts at https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2016/06/18/summer-warning-alligators/. Ignore them at your own risk.

And let’s say a little prayer for the woman on Hilton Head Island who died so tragically just last week.

Stay safe out there.

            Bill Hegerich

            The Uncommon Mariner

Life Lessons from Papa Hemingway

Original access to Hemingway’s writing studio was by a gangplank from the second floor porch, not by this fire escape. Just like a pirate.

Key West recently celebrated Ernest Hemingway’s birthday. Papa, as he was fondly called, is 119 years-old. Key West, as you probably know, was home to Hemingway from 1928 to 1940. Hemingway did some of his best work there. After alienating many of his friends because of an affair, he divorced his wife and married Martha Gelhorn. Strange as it may seem, he imposed a self-exile on himself, leaving Key West and moving to Cuba. There he wrote perhaps one of the best stories ever written. The Old Man and the Sea.

It’s the crowning masterpiece of a large set of literary accomplishments from a hardworking writer. The story isn’t long. But it’s packed with style and character, and it turned the literary world on its ear with its stark, simple writing. It earned him both the Nobel Prize and the Pulitzer Prize in 1953. As a writer, I admire this especially in a world where so much writing is bombastic and self-aggrandizing.

I’ve always admired Hemingway’s writing though his personal life leaves a lot to be desired. Hemingway was no saint. Make no mistake about it. But none of us are. We struggle in the human condition, each of us making our share of mistakes, and all we can hope for is forgiveness and mercy from ourselves, each other, and God.

Hemingway once said the most essential thing a writer must have is a built-in “bullsh** detector.” I know I must drive my wife crazy, but I guess it’s the writer in me, so when I hear something that’s odd or hard to believe, I always ask: “Who said it?”  Or “How do you know this?” And when she tells me who told her, I ask: “How do they know?” At this point, she sometimes grows frustrated, but the writer in me has to ask. Maybe like Donald Trump I’m wary of fake news. Though I think our motives are far different. I want to verify the facts. Our president only wants to acknowledge the ones that fit into his bizarre sense of reality

It’s not that I don’t believe things that I read or are told to me. It’s just that when things don’t make sense, my built-in bullsh** detector goes wild, clicking like a metal detector over a pile of pirate booty buried in the sand off the nearby Garden City Pier.

Another thing I learned from Hemingway is that if you want to accomplish something, you have to park your rear-end in a chair and keep it there till you’ve made some significant headway. He started work somewhere between 8:00 and 9:00 each morning and pretty much stayed with it till way past noon. He would have his maid bring him a sandwich and something to drink and leave it outside the studio door over the carriage house where he worked.

He would then finish up his writing early in the afternoon. Not a bad day’s work for a writer who had to labor in the oppressive heat of Key West without air conditioning. Only then would he stop. He would then spend the next hour or so with his wife, Pauline, where they would often swim nude in the only inground pool for 100 miles around. Under penalty of being fired, his housekeeper was given strict orders not to disturb them or pry.

Hemingway no doubt could have gone on for another hour or two, but he once said that when you drain the well, you have to give it time to fill back up. As a result, he always made it a point to stop short of putting everything down on paper. That way when he came back the next day, he would already be deep in the middle of a scene instead of staring out the window, wondering what he was going to have for lunch that day.

Hemingway had a reputation for being a boozer, a reputation he deserved. But did you know he had a rule to never drink before writing and to never drink while writing? A lot of writers think alcohol makes them wittier, cleverer, or somehow opens the heavens so that the muses throw themselves at their feet. Hemingway was smart. He knew what seemed so ingenious during an alcohol-fueled writing session was just a lot of crap. His own built-in bullsh** detector wouldn’t allow even himself a free pass.

Hemingway rarely missed a day of writing. There were exceptions. The day his new fishing boat, the Pilar, was delivered was one of them. I can only imagine the excitement when he got news it was docked not far from his house. Not much got written that day, or the next or the next, or the day after that, but the creative energy triggered that day more than compensated for the time away from his writing table.

Wherever you are tonight, Papa, I hope you know what a difference you made in literature. I also hope you know that that built-in bullsh** detector is as important today as it was when you lived on Whitehead Street in Key West.

Happy Birthday, Ernest. Enjoy your lunch, savor your swim, and tell St. Peter I said to pour you a couple extra ones. You deserve it!

                                                       Bill Hegerich

                                                      The Uncommon Mariner

Devotion to Duty

I’ve had the most amazing experience this past week, an experience that ranks up there with the capture of Blackbeard or the invention of the spyglass. A lot of people use the word amazing recklessly, but this was truly amazing. Shortly before the Fourth of July, I had the pleasure of witnessing my daughter’s promotion from lieutenant to lieutenant commander at the Coast Guard Station Sector Charleston in SC.

Commanding Officer, Captain John Reed, presents Lieutenant Commander Maureen Hegerich with her promotion at Sector Charleston.

What made it especially exciting is that I was given the privilege of participating in the event. Commanding officer, Captain John Reed, presented Lieutenant Commander Maureen Hegerich with the document that officially promoted her to her new rank. The second part of the ceremony centered on the removal of her old shoulder boards marked with two stripes, one on each of her shoulders. Once removed, the new shoulder boards with three stripes, were pinned to her uniform.

Joshua Olsen and myself replace Lieutenant Commander Hegerich’s shoulder boards at her promotion July 02, 2018.

Her son, Seaman Joshua Olsen, a second generation Coastie, whose father is Master Chief Jason Olsen, did the left shoulder. I had the distinct honor of pinning the new board on her right. I’ve never been prouder of my daughter.

It was a moment she worked hard for. No one achievement placed her in that time and place. Years of hard work, commitment and sacrifice did.

My daughter has served proudly in the Coast Guard for over 21 years, a feat not easily achieved in today’s era when many military personnel are forced into retirement long before they reach that 20-year milestone. It’s hard to beat knowledge, dedication and experience.

And make no mistake about it. Her experience is extremely diversified. Her first billet from 1997 to 1999 was at Station Fort Pierce, Florida as a member of the boat crew and boarding team.

Not one to coast, in 1998, she struck yeoman completely on her own. Most Coasties enlist in a specially designed program to make yeoman in Petaluma, CA.  Lieutenant Commander Hegerich pursued yeoman independently while serving at Coast Guard Station Fort Pierce.

From 2000 to 2005, she served at Activities, New York where she witnessed the tragedy of 911 firsthand. In 2005 and 2006, she served at Group Fort Macon at Atlantic Beach, NC where she served as yeoman.

It was after that tour that she enrolled in Officers Candidate School in the fall of 2006. The rigorous training regimen she faced helped make her who she is today. Her first billet after graduation in February 2007 took her to the training center in Yorktown, Virginia where she served on the Command Center Standardization Team till 2009. Her work carried her to command centers around the country making sure protocol, regulations and policy were being followed.

In 2009, she went to Sector Southeast New England on Cape Cod as assistant intel Chief till 2012. That experience prepared her for her next billet at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, DC where she served as program manager for Intel training. Between 2016 and 2018, she remained in Washington working as part of the Sexual Assault Prevention Response Campaign, and then on Human Capital Strategy. Her most recent assignment takes her to Sector Charleston as Logistics Department Head where she oversees engineering, administration, and supply. That entails support of the sector and its outlying units which includes small boat stations, cutters, and aids-to-navigation units.

My daughter’s duties varied widely in each billet. Because of security reasons, she couldn’t divulge some details to me. I will say this, however. The Coast Guard’s motto is Semper Paratis. Along with that, are three virtues their members highly cherish. Respect, Honor, and Devotion to Duty. Because of her commitment to those values and her willingness to put the Coast Guard and her country above herself, she has achieved some remarkable things over the years.

Lieutenant Commander Hegerich savors the moment with her mother, Maureen Hegerich and her son, Seaman Joshua Olsen. .

She received the MaryLou Whitney Military Leadership Award in 2005 for Woman of the Year. She has also received several prestigious commendations, but among her favorites are three good-conduct medals, a 9/11 medal, and a number of team commendation awards. Like a mother asked to choose her favorite child, she refuses because all are precious. But she does remember fondly team commendation awards for drug busts and a multi-heritage celebration.

I’ll say this for my daughter. She’s persistent. When she sets her eyes on a goal, she’s unbeatable. And she’s loyal. Something her family and coworkers can attest to. If they were to give an award to someone who boosts morale at a billet, she would win hands down, even if she were competing with the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa.

I once told my daughter you don’t get to the top of a mountain by falling there. It takes a lot of hard work, persistence, and grace under pressure. But it also takes street smarts. And despite one’s acumen and ability, you’re no leader at all if you don’t know how to bring out the best in people. It’s a trait she has in spades and will serve her well in her present command.

Lieutenant Commander Hegerich is ready to tackle the responsibilities of her new assignment.

I wish Lieutenant Commander Hegerich much success in her new billet. I’ve met Commanding Officer, Captain John Reed. and several other officers who head key departments as well as a number of yeomen at the Sector. It’s a delicious mélange of skills, experience, and perspectives. I know it’s a fine team assembled in Charleston. Everyone’s keen sense of dedication and commitment to their jobs and one another is as palpable as the ever-present Charleston humidity.

Blackbeard once held Charleston captive with a blockade. He took one of its leading citizens, Samuel Wragg, hostage and would not release him till a bag of medicine was rowed aboard his ship. Till then not one ship moved in or out of the harbor.

With the fine men and women serving Sector Charleston today, Blackbeard wouldn’t dare such a stunt. I’m betting my last doubloon he’d rather take his chances in the shoals of North Carolina with his nemesis, Lieutenant Robert Maynard, who literally handed him his head.

God bless everyone in the Coast Guard who serves our country so selflessly and honorably. May your luck run as deep as the sea and your worries be as light as its foam. And a special blessing to Lieutenant Commander Maureen Hegerich. You do us proud.

                                                                Bill Hegerich

                                                                The Uncommon Mariner