Odds and Ends

How I Titled My Book

Richard Bishop   

© Copyright 2015 by Richard Bishop 


Photo of Michael Bolton's Soul Provider album cover.

I am always astounded when I find that the written word alone is capable of arousing bitter-sweet sentiments (an ache from the past) to float up from the hidden pages of your memory and openly haunt you. Probably the most poignant words I have ever read (or heard) are at the beginning of a book (and are spoken aloud by the Academy Award winning actress Meryl Streep as the very first lines in the subsequent Movie) “Out Of Africa”, by Isak Dinesen.

Out of Africa
is a memoir by Isak Dinesen, a pen name used by the Danish author Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke. The book, first published in 1937, recounts events of the seventeen years when Blixen made her home in Kenya, then called British East Africa (quoted from Wikipedia). The mentioned years cover the period 1913 through 1930.

The seven (7) Academy Awards winning Film of Mirage Enterprises/Universal Studios: “Out Of Africa” (1985), Produced and Directed by Sydney Pollack. Starring Robert Redford and the awesome Meryl Streep. Music by John Barry.

The relevant line, dripping with nostalgic sentiment, is:

"I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills..."

Perhaps, if you haven’t read the book or haven’t seen the Movie, nothing will happen to your mood when you read the line or hear it spoken aloud. But if you have experienced both, then the fountains of “compassion” will well-up and engulf you, heart and soul, in both the peaks of enjoyment and the several valleys of disaster in this stirring 20th Century love story set in gigantic and mysterious Africa. Now, for a comparison (without the emotion), try this line and see if it grabs you:

I had a farm in the heartland of the Great Lakes at the edge of The Little Dry Prairie.

Does it “hold a candle” to:

"I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills?"

Well, I hope so because it’s going to stick (after I modify it slightly). My Book is now entitled:


and the very first line is:

I was raised on a farm in the heartland of the Great Lakes at the edge of The Little Dry Prairie.”

Travel - Odds and Ends

(Enjoying Asia - In Thailand). The indigenous people of Thailand have many interesting customs. One tradition, handed down from the days when their country was called Siam, is a water celebration of “purification” called Songkran.

I have heard that the citizens of India also enjoy such a celebration. It is very like the Thai Songkran but theirs is called “Holi Day”. The Thais use clear-water to purify one’s being; as a consequence, the clean-up is not so bad. But, the people of India douse each other with colors – both wet paint-like liquid and dry powders; it’s a full wipe-out and the Dry Cleaning Services and Laundries get in on the extra business; taking about a week to get your clothes-changes back in order.

If the Indian Holi Day is like the cited one celebrated in the Springtime in Thailand called "Water Day" (Songkran), all I can say is Wow ! In Thailand, everybody tries to pour at least a pitcher of water on somebody else (a glassful just won’t do). This application of moisture even includes a water hose for spritzing (if you can get hold of one connected to a running water faucet).

The friendly Thai people were exceedingly therapeutic. If you were up-tight, the activities of the day “loosened you up” very early -- on our way to work ! (It was an ancient tradition for them - not an official holiday for us).

At U-Tapao RTNS (Royal Thai Naval Station), 90 miles Southeast of Bangkok, every B-52 Bomber & KC-135 Tanker Pilot and Navigator, and other Crew members (off duty, of course), every non-flying Major "Fuddy-Duddy" and Captain "Straight-Lace" really got into the swing of it, as well as all the Enlisted Personnel who had a ball dousing the Officers. No Rank was respected and the Wing and Base Commanders each "got it" early in the morning while arriving at their offices; last night's Thai janitorial cleaning crew, who were going off-duty at 08:00, were the culprits who laughed all the way home. The rest of us mostly got drenched from each other.

My Boss, a Lt. Col., and a Major of my acquaintance (both of them stone Sober) wound up outside the Officer's Club with a hose and laughingly sprayed any and all who tried to enter. If you didn’t get wiped-out on your way to Breakfast, the Thai Waiters and Waitresses saw to it that you didn’t miss any of the fun. If you weren’t quite awake yet, a pitcher of ice-water fixed you up for the day. I changed my Fatigue uniform 2 times (and also my 1505 short-sleeved Summer Uniform twice) that day in 1968.

The Newspapers say that the Holi Day in India is rife with the consumption of Alcohol and is responsible for twice as many Traffic Deaths as any other holiday.

In Thailand, it is tamer but it was still great sport and really neat to see one and all Americans and other Foreigners taking it with diplomatic aplomb. It was also good to let off steam in a non-dangerous way.

(Enjoying Asia - In Japan). Take woodworking, for instance. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, you already know how to saw off a piece of wood. With a good sharp saw, you push it through the wood with some effort and then pull it back easily getting ready for the next cutting stroke. Not so in this country. It’s just the opposite. You pull it hard on the cutting stroke, and push it lightly through getting ready for the next pulling (cutting) stroke.

When you are stationed overseas with the Military, you will get lots of requests to purchase unique items of the country you are in. If the BX (Base Exchange) stocks the item, it’s easy. If not, then there’s usually an excursion out into the countryside to find it.

In terms of time and effort by me, these requests usually went ’way beyond the occasional: “Hey Dick -- if you don’t drink much yourself, how about bringing me a couple of “Fifths” of Bourbon if you come back “Stateside” on TDY (Temporary Duty) travel orders.

The first item was a Hibachi. “Hey Dick, how about sending me one of those neat Barbeque Hibachis for my backyard grilling?” Saying “OK” was my undoing.

This popular item often traveled to the USA in Aircraft Crew baggage. Not having these kinds of contacts, I had to use surface means. This cooking item was about three feet tall, round, and two feet in diameter. It was made of cast-iron, colored forest green, and very heavy. The BX stocked them and the BX Packing & Shipping Vendor knew all the minimums and maximums regarding size and weight. After they had built a wooden framework around it, they transported it to the APO for me in a wheelbarrow. Then it was easy to fill out the Customs “declaration” form and legally send it via insured APO Parcel Post to the recipient “Stateside.”

After a couple of weeks, it arrived in five (5) pieces (cast-iron does not travel well) ! The recipient collected his insurance, offered me his thanks, and let me off the hook on my promise by not asking me to repeat the deal.

The second unique item was a two-feet tall porcelain costumed Geisha Doll complete with a black wood & glass display case for a friend in Europe. This was not stocked in the BX and therefore, required planning a trip to obtain it.

Asking around, we ascertained that a factory producing world-renowned examples of this genre was located on the outskirts of Tokyo . . . . about 35 miles from Tachikawa AB, where we were stationed. We then obtained US Occupation Forces road-maps to show the way (half in Japanese/half in English). We asked our Maid Sotoko if she knew someone who would go along as a guide & interpreter (for pay).
She did and we made an appointment for pick-up the following week, early in the morning.

My Wife, Elfi, and I drove over to the pick-up point near Green Park Housing Area. He turned out to be a nice 20 year-old Japanese young man who spoke fair English. We traveled to the Porcelain Plant with no problems. While there, they conducted us around the factory (it was really several houses) showing all the styles of ornate clothing available to decorate the Dolls. We purchased a stunning example for cash (Yen) and returned by way of Yamato Air Station just across the road from Tachikawa-West that had a nice BX Snack Bar. We wanted to buy our guide lunch as an extra thank-you for helping us.

A Hamburger and Fries plus a Coke were almost beyond his grasp as how to eat them. This was 1960 and the poor guy had to wait a while to watch how we ate the same things so that he could emulate us (now-a-days there would be no trouble for a Japanese youngster to eat fast-foods, whatever the brand).

We duly sent the item via International Parcel Post to an address in Germany. We heard that it had arrived in good shape. Years later, Elfi and I visited the Gentleman who received it and noted that he had made it into a beautiful center-piece for his house in the form of a display fitting for a Museum. His thanks were profuse and heartfelt. That was nice. Sometimes, you do get paid for all your effort !

The following is the kind of stuff I deemed appropriate to leave out of my book for mostly obvious reasons.

Many of the geographic names have been omitted, on purpose.
(I don’t need to tangle with any Consulates at my time of life!)

(Enjoying Asia - At a small island nation). Later, after leaving the Port and traveling to the “downtown” of the Capital, I bought a book, at a bargain price, entitled: THE XXXXXXXXXX'S HANDBOOK especially printed on thin Bible paper. It cost me about the equivalent of $ 10.00 in the local currency and in the U.S.A., a normal printing would have cost $25.00; but such a book with a thinner, lighter weight of paper such as the one presented would have cost $45.00. Back in Japan, I was shocked to find out that the country I had visited was the location of the World’s biggest industry of pirating (stealing) Copyrighted material - mostly books - by reprinting and selling them. Notwithstanding the illegality, since it had been so nicely done, I kept the book as a souvenir of the trip. Since I already possessed a copy of the American original, I kept it unused on my library shelf for years while licensed in the State of Ohio as a P. A. (PUBLIC ACCOUNTANT).

(Enjoying Asia - Near the Gulf of Siam). In addition to the Base Newspaper, this event was also covered in a local Newspaper article in English. Even murder was, apparently, simple to arrange. Our Base Bank Manager’s Assistant lived off-base in a villa on the beach and roomed with an Assistant to the Manager of the Base Exchange. One night the Banker was awakened just long enough to be pistol-whipped with a .45 caliber automatic. When he regained consciousness, the Assistant BX Manager was dead, having been shot twice in the body and once in the head with a .45 caliber weapon (the latter shot for good measure - clearly the mark of an assassination). Nothing was stolen. The marks of a boat landing in the sand and quickly leaving again corroborated that this was murder for hire. Worse yet, the cited English language local Newspaper played down the event saying that the deceased was a mean and reviled “womanizer.” We never heard that this case was ever solved.
 That’s 30

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