Guest Contributor – ArthurinCali – 31JAN2023 – Check the Menu First

Adventures overseas.

Many a young man has had a yearning for adventure, and I was no different. Eager for travel and new experiences I jumped at the chance to be stationed overseas after joining the US Navy. That wish was granted when after boot camp when I was assigned to a helicopter squadron on the south pacific island of Guam. At 30 miles long and only 10 miles at her widest point, Guam was to become my home between deployments for the first 4 years of my naval career.

Guam has been continuously inhabited for over 4000 years starting with the migration of Austronesian people, known today as Chamorro Peoples. With the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, this began a 300-year period of heavy Spanish influence which can still be seen on the island through the remains of forts, missions, and architecture. Language, food, and religion of local island culture still reflect the Spaniards traditions that were imprinted. After the Spanish-American war of 1898, Guam became a territory of the US, a status that remains to this day.

At the outbreak of WWII the Japanese occupied the island until being defeated by American forces in the Battle for Guam campaign of 1944. The war had lasting effects on the island, with many relicts still visible such as sunken ships, tanks, and airplane wrecks. One Japanese soldier, Shoichi Yokoi, fled to the jungle in 1944 during the battle for control of the island. He survived undetected for nearly 30 years until being found in 1972, still believing that the war was not over.

(This is only a quick overview for the fascinating history of Guam. I highly recommend furthering one’s knowledge through the links provided.)

How do I describe the feeling of arriving to a new country? It may as well have been a new planet. To go from the pine forests of East Texas-to a tropical island with endless blue stretching out to the horizon was almost visually unreal. I recall that the airline arrived late at night so the trip to the base did not give me much clue as to what the surroundings were like. Waking up and stepping outside of the barracks to the sight of palm trees and blue crystal water was a shock. The ocean depths surrounding Guam are some of the clearest in the world, attracting many divers to explore the pristine coral reef.

With over a century of American influence, many things on the island were similar to what one would find on the mainland, but with a twist. There are plenty of US restaurants as dining choices; from Outback Steakhouse, to McDonald’s. Major hotels line the shores of Tumon Bay, and tourism makes up a significant part of the economy. Yet it is the little differences that are interesting. One example is that you can order local dishes at major franchises like Spam & Eggs at McDonald’s. A popular local ice cream is literally packed with a vegetable medley including carrots, potato, and beans. Yes, beans. The story goes that this was invented to encourage island children to eat more veggies. The blend of culinary diversity gave one ample choices.

Not long after arriving I was able to purchase a ‘Boonie’ car. This description is for an old vehicle that has seen numerous owners, mostly due to military personnel transferring off-island. So, essentially a beater car. Mine was a well-loved 1980s something black Camaro that set its own schedule as to if and when the A/C would work, which was seldom. She also had semi-electronic windows that refused to roll up when it rained…which was every day. Great combo for an island that gets an average of 95 inches of rain a year. At one point I kept more towels in the car than in my bathroom for these occasions. Did I mention the roads? Can’t forget that. Having limited building materials, Guam incorporated ground-up coral reef into the asphalt road construction. Not too big of a deal…unless it rains. This forces the oils up to the surface of the roads making them slicker than an ice rink. Even with most posted speed limits at 35 MPH this doesn’t help when everyone ignores that speed limit. The major road, Guam Highway 1 ran north to south of the island and was menacingly nicknamed ‘Guam Autobahn.’

Even with these transportation challenges I enjoyed exploring different parts of the island. Most weekends were spent checking out the latest place of interest I had read about or heard from someone who had visited. Swimming in underground cave pools and visiting 17th century Spanish Forts were a highlight of my time spent in Guam.

The villages held festivals for saints and holidays throughout the year. It seemed that every weekend a different village held a fiesta so myself and a few guys from the base decided to check one out. The best comparison would be to a small town county fair atmosphere, with carnival games and attractions. The friendliness of the Chamorro people cannot be overstated and we soon found ourselves invited to get something to eat from one of the local villagers. He had an elaborate setup in his front yard with a large canopy that shaded a set of folding tables and chairs. The food was arranged on a couple of tables to one side that reminded me of Sunday dinners after church back in Texas. After getting a plate of ribs and vegetables, we found our seats and dug in. After a while, our host came over and inquired if we were enjoying the food. He was especially interested in what we thought of his ribs. When I told him they were good he asked, “Would you like to see my stock?” I replied sure and he motioned for us to follow him around to the back of the house. Now, being from Texas, I was expecting to see a pig pen, or possibly an enclosure with goats. Instead, we were greeted with a large kennel…of dogs. The realization of where the ribs had come from was interrupted by one of my companions saying, “So that’s why they were so tender?” Always check the menu became my new motto that day.

Guam is a special place to me, even after traveling to 20+ countries during my naval career. It was the start of my world travels and was the first experience of how vast this world truly is. But remember: Always check the menu.



Dunwich in the Depths of a Non-Winter

Swamp in Fall 2

Here we are at the brink of February and Dunwich looks like early December.  There’s no snow cover and the ground is soggy with all the rainfall.  There are serious consequences from this warm weather.  Mange has broken out among various species.  Werewolves, zombies and the Mi-Go (those winged fungoid crustacean creatures) have all been observed uncontrollably scratching themselves against tree trunks to relieve the itching.  And the smell from these festering wounds has made the forested areas around the swamps almost unendurable for residents there.  First Selectman Cthulhu complains that tourism is way off and he blames it on this blight.  I don’t know.  I think it could be a result of the new advertising slogan they came up with.  I mean, “Dunwich, smell the history” might need some work.

Luckily for me I took the precaution of planting the perimeter of my property with wolfsbane a year or two back and the only local inhabitant that hasn’t fled is a shoggoth that lives under the rock overhang at the edge of the swamp.  He’s a really old and decrepit example of the species and he probably would have already succumbed to the infection if Camera Girl hadn’t started putting out scraps for it to subsist on.

As is her habit, she has sort of adopted it and calls it by a pet name, shoggy, which I find annoying.  I’ve explained many times that it is a loathsome man-eating nightmare, the very sight of which can shatter the sanity of any human being.  She claims it just needs scratching under the chin (wherever that is), some warm blankets and leftover fried chicken to make it a “boopa.”  Women are mostly insane.  I’ve resorted to poisoning the chicken but all that accomplished was to make it thirsty.  It drank down the pond and swelled up to a hundred times its original size.  It’s about the size of a city block and about three hundred feet tall.  It seems to have either the hiccups or some kind of rhythmic flatulence.

Next Friday is supposed to be a quick freeze.  Forecasts call for nighttime temperatures dipping down to minus fifteen Fahrenheit.  I believe that after absorbing that much water the shoggoth will freeze solid overnight.  My plan is to rent one of those construction vehicles with the industrial strength jack hammer attached to a robotic arm and use it to chop up the shoggoth into bite size chunks.  I figure I can probably transport them to a fishing port and sell it as chum to the commercial fishermen.  Anyway, that’s the plan.

With the cold weather coming I expect the more traditional winter activities to resume.  Once Lake Bishop freezes the annual ice fishing derby will be announced and all experienced fishermen will partake in the night before drinking binge to shore up their nerve for the event.  And whoever draws the short straw that morning will need every bit of that alcohol to get the nerve to make the run across the ice.  After all, running across a half mile of open ice dressed as a giant “kivver” with the First Selectman coming after you from under the ice with only a ten second head start is pretty heady stuff.

Last year Tanner Featherstone came within twenty feet of the shore and maybe three seconds of winning the contest and the $100 Amazon gift card.  Not to mention keeping his life.  It’s this kind of town-spirit and bone-headed stupidity that keeps this amazing tradition going despite the unbroken history of failure and the terrifying sight of a man being eaten alive by a one-hundred-foot-tall squid-headed flying dragon.  The screams and the sound of the crunching bones really makes you think.

Well anyway.  I’ve got to do some research on that whole jack hammer rental thing.  Busy, busy, busy.  I hope your winter is going well and I’ll be back soon to describe what looks like an early spring and the return of the “colour out of space” to the local foliage.  Ah those unearthly colors.  They make Dunwich the garden spot it is.

31JAN2023 – Quote of the Day

I have not yet begun to fight!

His famous response, in the early phase of the Battle of Flamborough Head, (23 September 1779) to an inquiry by his opponent (Captain Richard Pearson of the Royal Navy ship HMS Serapis) as to whether he was surrendering his ship, the USS Bonhomme Richard, as recounted in the reminiscences of Jones’s First Lieutenant, Richard Dale, as published in The Life and Character of John Paul Jones, a Captain in the United States Navy (1825) by John Henry Sherburne:

…the Bon Homme Richard, having head way, ran her bows into the stern of the Serapis. We had remained in this situation but a few minutes when we were again hailed by the Serapis, “Has your ship struck?” To which Captain Jones answered, “I have not yet begun to fight!”

In Naval teminology to “strike the colours” means to haul down the ship’s flag to signify surrender, but here the use of the ship as subject of the sentence may imply a pun on the non-naval use of “struck”.

I may sink, but I’ll be damned if I strike!

His much less famous response, in the late phase of the Battle of Flamborough Head, 23 September 1779, to an inquiry by his opponent (Captain Richard Pearson of the Royal Navy ship HMS Serapis) as to whether he was surrendering his ship, the USS Bonhomme Richard, which was by this time very seriously damaged.

This was what some of his sailors, reported in British newspapers at the time, claimed he had said; Jones’s official report merely stated that he had answered “in the most determined negative”.

John Paul Jones

America’s Pandora’s Box – The Ukraine War

In 2001 when the United States was preparing to invade Afghanistan Vladimir Putin reached out to George W. Bush and agreed to provide logistical aid and political clout to convince the Uzbeks to let their country be a staging ground for the invasion of Afghanistan.  Bush made some statement about looking into Putin’s soul.  Whatever that meant there has never been any indication that we ever considered a way to have a positive relationship with Russia.  And after the numerous CIA color revolutions in the former Soviet lands and now with the existential threat that we have handed the Russians in Ukraine I think we must consider we’ve made them permanent implacable enemies.  And that’s not a good thing.  The Russians are not the Iraqis or even the Iranians.  In addition to a nuclear arsenal, they are intelligent, resourceful and highly vindictive.  That’s not a good combination in an enemy.

I’m not thinking ahead to nuclear Armageddon.  Let’s leave that scenario for another day.  But what Russia might do is make us pay a price at home.  What occurs to me is our porous southern border.  And come to think of it, all of Europe’s borders.  The United States and Western Europe have spent the last two decades saying that the world is welcome to traipse into their countries at will.  Well, what if the Russians start sending some of our middle eastern “friends” with some munitions they provide and direct them to those borders.  That would be a very frightening thing.  Or how about men who claim to be Ukrainian refugees?  Could we really know that they weren’t Russians?  I kind of doubt it.

There hasn’t been much in the news lately about Al Qaeda or any of the other crazies that used to be in the news 24/7.  But I believe they’re all mostly still there and now we’ve left them several billions of dollars’ worth of war materiel in Afghanistan and all that’s lacking is a little seed money and plans.  And let’s not forget the Mexican Drug Cartels.  They aren’t our friends.  They have already set up shop in the border states and elsewhere and certainly wouldn’t object to some arms smuggling if the price was right.  Things like infrastructure sabotage and downing airliners seem like no-brainers.  How exactly would we find a needle of determined saboteurs when they’ll be hiding inside of a haystack of millions of illegal aliens that we’ve allowed to flood our country.  I think the answer is we can’t.

We’re providing the Ukrainians with top-of-the-line American arms and we are assuming that the Russians won’t pay us back.  Somehow that seems absurd.  We’ve attempted to starve the Russians out with sanctions and we give the Ukrainians real time location of the Russian senior staff for missile targeting and we think they’ll just sit back and take it.  That seems incredibly naïve.

In fact, I really wouldn’t want to be Joe Biden, Lloyd Austin or General Mark Milley.  They’ve made this very personal for Vladimir Putin and his government.  I don’t think they’re the kind who think of it as impersonal and just “business.”  I remember reading about the prosecution of the Chechen war.  It was a dirty, nasty slog where vendettas and revenge were an integral part of winning.  I would not be surprised to hear that kidnapping and torture became a part of this war.  The Ukrainians have already declared a blacklist of American civilians that they consider targets for assassination.  It would surprise me not at all that the Russians have something similar.

So, the neocons have their war.  They hate the Russians viscerally and now the Russians hate us too.  Brilliant.