Earlier today (5-25-13) I attended the Ft. Lee Military Show for the first time. I had a blast… great show, wonderful location; altogether a very worthy effort by the organizers. I’ll certainly go again next year, and I’ll probably have a table of my own then as well.
I primarily went to hook up with two good friends, Kevin Born (one of the show’s organizers- thanks Kevin!) and Ralph Pickard (author of “Stasi Decorations and Memorabilia, Volumes 1 and 2”), as it has been a couple of years since I saw them last. A wonderful reunion ensued, along with some minor buying and selling on my part. Great way to spend a beautiful Saturday morning and early afternoon.
Insofar as content, most of the vendors dealt in artifacts from multiple countries and the country that had the most items on display/for sale was the US. Wars covered began with WW1, although I did see reunion items from the US Civil War. There were a couple of US vendors who also had a smattering of Third Reich items, and a couple who also had Eastern Bloc awards. Kevin and Ralph’s tables were the only tables displaying East German militaria.
The highlight of the day was Ralph’s sharing two unbelievable groupings he has acquired… and when I say “unbelievable”, well, you can certainly take that to the bank. The first group is that of a Hungarian State Security agent who retired a Colonel in the mid ‘70’s. In this group, Ralph has been able to acquire this gentleman’s awards from his own country, which include awards from both the Rakosi and Kadar periods and the documents that go with them; Bulgarian awards and associated documents; East German MfS (“Stasi”) awards and their documents; Soviet awards and their documents including the highly coveted “Outstanding Member of the MOOP” (in absolutely pristine condition) and KGB 50 Year award badge. Also with this group, is a Hungarian classified award document that, by virtue of it not having a copy distribution number, may be the sole copy of that particular document, and an interesting pass that admitted this gentleman to all secure areas in the event of an emergency- a sort of “get out of jail free” pass. There were other documents, such as his retirement document, as well. Suffice it to say I have never seen a grouping so impressive and so complete… then Ralph showed me the next case.
This next group was that of an Armenian KGB agent (rose to Lt. Colonel) who was posted, for obviously a good little while, in Afghanistan. 24 awards with documents (for all but, I believe, 2 of the awards), including the Soviet Order of Personal Courage, Soviet Order of the Red Star, Afghan Orders of the Red Star (2), Afghan Order of Glory, Afghan Orders of the Star (1st and 3rd Class) and Afghan Medal for Valour… this guy saw more than his fair share of action. I have never this many Afghan awards in one place, let alone with nearly all the documents TO ONE INDIVIDUAL. I know that Ralph took a lot of time (and money) to get these groups together so completely and they really are beyond amazing. Such collections allow you to go past the individual medal, as impressive and desirable as it may be, and actually get an insight into the life and career of the individual who achieved these awards. Genuine history. And, what probably goes without saying is my appreciation to Ralph for sharing this with me. Strike two from the “bucket list”.
I attended a funeral yesterday for my cousin, Elwood Leroy Collins, who died on the 24th. Born in 1925, he was the son of my Grandfather’s brother and, though somewhat distant in relationship, he appeared in more than a couple of “scenes” in my life whenever I returned to this part of Virginia. Family reunions, Sunday dinners or, simply, running into him during local travels- it was always great to see him as he brought a sense of humour to nearly every occasion. No doubt it would have been present yesterday were he not the subject of the gathering. Besides being a relative, he was a great friend to my Grandfather, my Father and to me.
The young cleryman in attendance was certainly an eloquent speaker, and certainly holy enough (I guess). And Leroy (as we all called him) certainly had all the typical qualities for praise: he was a good husband (his wife, Lucille, preceded him in death seven years ago), a good father, good grandfather and good great-grandfather. He served in the US Navy during WW2 and retired from the Virginia Forestry Department after 40 years of service. Another member of this country’s “greatest generation” has departed. And all this was cited by the minister. “Taps” was sounded; the flag was folded. Good job, but there are a couple of details which, in my opinion, were not covered very well, and these details are those that separated Leroy from most of us and, very possibly, made him the absolutely great person I knew.
He was a young 2nd Class Boatswains (Bos’ns) Mate in the Navy who was Coxswain (Coxs’n). A Coxswain, for those of the more “landlubber” persuasion, is a driver of small craft (boats) and is generally a position/qualification occupied by mid to high ranking BM’s. During the moments prior to the D-Day invasion, he shuttled Generals and Admirals from ship to ship to last minute planning meetings and, on the day itself, piloted the first landing craft (LCC) that hit Omaha Beach. It is important to note here that a Coxswain’s life expectancy during this event was measured in seconds- not minutes- and many, if not most, did not survive the day. And this evolution was repeated until all the troops were landed. And Leroy survived.
Leroy was still in the Navy in 1946 during the A-Bomb tests at Bikini Atoll. Apparently, the bomb (which was very much like the “Fat Man” bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki) did not sink most of the many (in excess of 200) ships that had been brought there as part of the test. So, after the “fireworks”, Leroy was taken, by helicopter, from ship deck to ship deck to go down to the lower level of the engine rooms and open the discharge valves to allow sea water into the ships and, eventually, sink them (those ships that were not designated for further radiation study). Over and over, Leroy was subjected to incredible amounts of radiation (interestingly, he told me that, while the outside of the ships were charred black, the inside looked absolutely normal). And Leroy survived.
These details were only briefly, barely, and in the most general of terms, alluded to during the graveside service. And, as I observed the stoic and, frankly, blank stares of the younger folks who were there I wonder if anyone would have been able to “wrap their minds around it” anyway. I seem to encounter this phenomenon a lot, lately. I don’t suppose they teach kids about this anymore.
Leroy left us quietly, and with apparently no real struggle, in his own bed in his own home in Charlottesville. I am glad for this as he had certainly had more than his share of excitement in his earlier life. I will miss Leroy; his good heart and great sense of humour. I mourn the passing of this great American; they “don’t make them like that anymore”. Fair winds and smooth sailing, my friend.
As I wrote in yesterday's blog, I have thought about sharing a few "sea stories" with you. Don't expect great revelations here; just a few that I can't seem to get out of my head, no matter how hard I try. They are personal in nature and may give insight as to why I am somewhat "twisted".
Communication, I have painfully learned, is the cornerstone of a lasting marriage. All to often we fall prey to our own baser instincts and concentrate on the physical, only to "pay big time" at a later date. So it was with my first marriage. Here's a little taste of what lasted seven years for me (1978 through 1984).
I was married, for a time, to a girl from the “sunnier climes”- the Philippines, to be exact- who never quite got the grasp of the English language although, to be honest, her English was heads and shoulders above my attempt at Tagalog (the national language of the Philippines).
Anyway, one morning I arose at the customary 4:30 am to grab a shower and a couple cups of coffee prior to heading across the Terminal Island Expressway to get to the USS New Jersey BB-62, which we were re-assembling back in ’82. This particular morning, the wife was awake, sitting at the dining room table and, as a large bonus, had coffee ready! As I mumbled my early morning greeting and closed in on the warm, brown elixir of life, I heard her say, “Honey, hand pour me please de hello pahgaes”. I took a long slug of coffee and replied, “Huh?”. “Hand pour me please do hello pahgeas”, she said. I dropped my head, shook it side to side a bit as if trying to dislodge some blockage in my ear and replied, “Huh?”. She repeated the phrase again, but with much irritation. Finally I told her, “Honey, I can hear what you are saying; I just don’t understand what you’re telling me”. Exasperated, she explained, “Joo know, de book pour de telephone coeloured hello…”. To which I replied, “You mean the g*d d*mned Yellow Pages?”. She did.
On my way to the ship that morning I was reminded of an earlier (probably ’79), similar incident in Yokosuka, Japan when I was on the USS Kirk FF-1087. As I was the only one of a close-knit group of buddies to have a house on the economy (in town) and a wife who could really cook several Philippino delicacies such as pancit and lumpia, I was elected to host our drunken get-togethers (I did say this was Navy, didn’t I). Well, I had duty on the day before one of these events and I told a couple of the guys, “Look, if you want to do this tomorrow, you’ll have to get off your *sses, go to my place, pick up the wife, take her to the commissary and then get her back home”. “No problem”, came their reply. Later that day- much later- and as I was on rounds on the ship, one of the guys approached me and said, “That is the last time I ever go to the commissary with your wife”. “Why, what happened”, I inquired. He stated, “She had me looking high and low for car-oats”. He went on, “I was climbing the shelves in the cereal aisle looking up and down for the s*ns of b*tches”. I interjected, “Didn’t she mean carrots?”. He glared at me and mumbled’ “*sshole” before turning and walking away. I smiled and chuckled as I hooked a right at the Hughes Tool Company shack and turned toward the dry dock.
Well, the 21st has come and gone and we're still here... not sure if that's a plus or minus but, hey, it IS. So, on we go until the next projected apocalypse.
Nothing much happening here except it is getting colder. I apologize to those living in the colder climes- Canada and Russia come to mind- but we're just not as used to it here and it does get "raw" at times. Anyway, I'm taking advantage of the indoor time to continue cataloging the collection. This has become something of a daunting task due to the size of the "beast"- what you're seeing in my galleries is only a third of it, at best.
Acquistitions continue, although at a much slower rate than in the past (the economy). What I have been concentrating on is, primarily, Border Guard items and have found some pretty nice pieces at good prices. I'll take this opportunity to give a shameless (and uncompensated) plug to Igor at Collect Russia. Despite the talk of his high prices, I have been able to find several very good deals from him- very good deals- and with the bonus of knowing absolutely that these pieces are genuine. So, many thanks to Igor- again. And, as always, I've posted these jewels in my USSR gallery, so have a look.
Am toying with an idea for future blogs; I have alot of interesting/weird/humerous etc. stories from a fair amount of travelling which I often resort to, from time to time, in my interactions with younger people. Most deal with clashes in culture, "fish out of water"- that kind of thing. Anyway, I thought I'd share a few of these with you as they all pertain directly or indirectly with the military of my day (I say "of my day" because there have definitely been some changes since I was there... whew!). Most will be humerous, many will be off-colour, some will be happy and some of a sadder nature.
Two things before I go: thanks to Nick for seeing fit in including me in the calender- twice! Very gratifying. And, finally, my very best to all for the season in what ever way you chose to celebrate it.
I have been absent from the blogging scene of late… I could list all kinds of excuses but, as most of them revolve around being 58- and a lot of you are in the same shoes- you can fill-in the blanks. For those who have not reached this point in your “development”, I admonish you to enjoy the youth you currently enjoy as it truly is fleeting. For those who have passed me and are looking at 58 in the rear-view, please resist the temptation of telling me what comes next as I just LOVE these surprises :-( .
I have religiously followed the forum and, surprisingly and gratefully, was chosen as a 2nd Place winner in the August competition (thanks to the judging staff). It’s always a “pig in a poke” anticipating if another will find the interest or excitement that you found in a particular piece or pieces. And I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the plaque.
I have also been quite busy adding to a couple/few of the galleries I maintain here- a labour of love. I try to put forward some interesting stuff in a way that folks will enjoy the look. Since my last blogging, I’ve added to the USSR, Veteran’s, PMR and DDR galleries; have a look if you have the time… more than a couple of interesting/unusual pieces there.
The cooler temperatures have arrived and it’s beginning to feel, and look, like autumn here in Central Virginia. The leaves are beginning to turn from green to gold to red- many love this time of year BUT, the “grump” that I am is reminded of Sean Bean’s recurring line, and family motto, in The Game of Thrones, “winter is coming”. Hope it’s not too hard on us this year- it wasn’t last year, but it does run in cycles.
Haven't written in a while; otherwise occupied lately. Anyway, I have a few days off which, when added to the days I'd normally be off comes to a total of seven days, thought I'd drop a few lines to let everyone know (A) I'm still sucking air and am warm and upright, and (B) what I'm up to as far as collecting goes.
I've been concentrating on my primary interest lately, which is state security/internal ministry/border troops/fire brigades, and my focus, at least at present, is directed toward the USSR. To tell you the truth, it's been kind of nice to return to the USSR after spending so much of my collector time elsewhere. Anyway, while I am limited (financially) to what I can seek ("egg" badges are out for me at present), I've found some gems that are within my realm. I've added the following to my USSR gallery in case anyone would like to take a look:
- Medal for Distinguished Service in Defense of State Frontier (3rd variation)
- Medal for Distinguished Service in Defense of Public Order (2nd variation)
- 60 and 70 Year Border Troop badges (the official badges)
- An early 1985, two piece gold Outstanding Militiaman badge (set completer)
- A '62-'66 Belorussian MOOP badge (set completer)
- A set of KGB type 1 service medals
- A '92 70 Years of the North Western Border Guard veteran's badge (set completer)
- A 60 year Tajikistan Border Troop veterans badge (not posted yet)
- Several Georgian MVD documents, including I.D.'s (not posted yet)
- An interesting 50 year anniversary badge of the MVD unit concerned with the misappropriation of state property (not posted yet)
So yeah, I've been busy. And, I continue the search (in case you may have some things you're looking to get rid of... hint).
Other than that, life goes on here pretty much uneventfully. It's supposed to be quite warm over the next several days- 93 today, climbing to 103 by Saturday. That and, of course, we live without air conditioning- we generally don't need it, but it would come in handy for the few days we have like this. Anyway, if I don't fry or bake to death, I'll write more soon.
In about 20 minutes it will be May 9th in Moscow and Victory Day will be underway. The annual parade should step-off at 1000. A change from last year's attempt at the utility uniform will be the return to the dress uniform (why they changed that last year I will never know). Hopefully the parade, in it's entirety, will be broadcast (perhaps by RT) and, again hopefully, someone will make a dvd of it that will be available for purchase by those of us who live in the more remote areas (hint).
Aside from the pagentry and splendor associated with the military parade, it will be a time to remember ALL those- the allied nations military forces, the partisans, the civilains whose villages and towns were set upon and who chose to fight back, and yes, those who were selected for "special treatment" because they were, for one reason or another, deemed unfit for the "one thousand year reich"- who sacrificed so much and, often enough, all to bring about the defeat of Hilter and his allies. I had many family members fight in that war; one did not return (Battle of the Bulge- Douglas Kirby, 3rd Armoured Division "Spearhead") and many of you have similar stories- some of you, I dare say, were there... to those who were, thank you so very, very much. I will never forget, nor will I let those around me forget, the magnificent thing you did for all of us.
Happy May Day to all! Not a big holiday here in the US (although it did start here) except for the "faithful" (hard core Reds). Did catch the Moscow goings-on via RT earlier today- they covered events all over the world. Good to see the Moscow parades, although I wish they still went through Red Square. Noticed that even the oligarchs participated in the parade (Medvedev)- hmmmmm. Also good to see the general strike called by the Occupy movement- still strong. All together much more going on this year than last... could be indicative of something- we'll see. Anyway, rather than blather on ad nauseum, thought I'd leave a few colourful images that look better if you hum a chorus of The Internationale while viewing (no kidding). The first is a rather meager collection of May Day badges from the USSR and DDR along with a badge of our founder, followed by two images of some USSR postcards from the '70's and '80's (just like Mom used to send). Enjoy!
Workers of All Nations Unite!
You Have Nothing to Lose But Your Chains!
Hmmmm... Spring has, apparently, "sprung" here in beautiful metropolitan Ferncliff, Virginia where our one traffic light continues to blink red one way and yellow in the other direction. The horses are snorting (probably because of all the pollen), the cows are lowing and the "little birdies machen melodies"- much to the amusement of my cats. The possum (or possums- not sure I'm always looking at the same one) has come out of that weird partial hibernation and has joined the cats for meals. My stone-deaf Border Collie, Roger, takes it all in stride and has taken to staying outside longer and eating his food leisurely- one morsel at a time- and just surveying his turf.
I'm back to mowing... changed the blades, oil, oil filter and fuel filter on the 48" Husqvarna and have had her out for the initial cut... whew. Using the mower as a "bush hog"- rough going but got it done. Am going to take a friend's advice this year and cut at 3 1/2" instead of 2 1/2"- hoping that the grass will, eventually, choke out the weeds. I'll have to cut more often but the cutting should go quickly.
Barreling toward May, when I'll have some meaningful vacation EXCEPT I'm having to work the 4th, 5th and 6th which, as luck would have it, is my 40th Class Reunion at Fork Union Military Academy. Damn, damn, damn... I would like to go to that- at least for the parade on the 6th. In the letter they sent, 12 of my classmates have died, which is why they opted for a 40th reunion instead of the more traditional 50th- in case the rest of us dropped dead. Oh well, "no one expects the Spanish Inquisition". I'm going to continue to try to get that day off.
Have added a book to the library, "Checka- Soviet Secret Police Awards 1917-1995" by Cdr. Robert Pandis. A very informative work- especially about the various "egg" badges associated with the Soviet Internal Ministry. I recommend it to all. Have also added a few items to my ever growing PMR collection... a 20th Anniversary of the Armed Forces medal and a couple of Bendery UVD badges. Also managed to find a Romanian "For Militia Merit" badge from the RPR (1947-1965) period. These have been added to my galleries here- have a look. Oh, by the way, does anyone, other than me, know what the "PMR" is? This may be a good topic for a future blog entry.
I guess that's all for now as I have to prepare for work tomorrow.
I'm in kind of a "bitchy" mood today; on the two days I've had off, I had to go to meetings at the joint on both days. These people have meetings to decide when to have more meetings!!! Nothing is ever accomplished during said meetings except to expose how education deprived the speakers are. In the 8 years I spent in the Navy, we trotted all over the Far East, Central America, shot through the Panama Canal, went through Grenada, blasted the crap out of Beirut- all without meetings. Amazing! OK, I'm going to calm down now... breathe... slow down. OK, I'm better now.
Earlier today, I posted three new PMR (Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic) awards to my PMR Gallery. A couple are fairly interesting; there's a 20 Years of the Customs Service medal and an Honoured Official of the Justice Ministry that bears a look if you have time. The customs medal is one of the nicest deep relief medals I've seen, especially the reverse. Add to this the fact that PMR Customs awards are VERY difficult to come by. The Justice Ministry badge is, currently, the highest award issued by that ministry. It has a "rayed" background that is handled in a way reminiscent of the early Soviet MVD "egg" badges, although the badge is one-piece. The overall quality of PMR items has improved of late. One reason is that, apparently, they have settled on one supplier (I'm seeing a new level of consistency that was not there before). Also, the country as a whole seems to be going through the motions of settling into itself... elections, a new President, an enhanced program of diplomacy. We'll see...
Still looking for a reasonable source for CPRF (Communist Party of the Russian Federation) items; I only need about 3 to 4 pieces to complete the collection. If you have, or know someone who has, access to Molotok.ru please let me know.
One last item, and to me it's a BIG one, I've been given the honour of designation as "Old Contemptible". I guess I have arrived, and I'm very proud of this. Thanks to all who made this possible; it's quite a rush.
Well, as of 1338 (Eastern Standard Time) today, I became 58 years old. I was taking a nap at that moment, so I didn't notice any great change. In essence, a non-event. But, to be honest, I have been, lately, mulling over the passage of time and what I've seen during my half-century plus on the blue marble. If nothing else, it's been an interesting ride. At the risk of boring the readership, I provide the following highlights:
-I've been to all 50 states in the USA and 27 countries; during all of this, I've lived awhile (more than one year) in Virginia, the D.C. area, Southern California, Montreal, the Philippines and the Tokyo area.
-my stepfather was, alas, a true-to-life "flim-flam" man... a con-artist. This goes toward explaining the above... many of those locations were brought on by this, and I have lived in many of those locales but only for a short time (getting up at midnight and "blowing town" with all you can pack in one bag).
-during all this, I learned (taught myself as I was so "mobile") to play the guitar. Began at 7 years old, and have been able to, relatively, master the 6 and 12 string guitars and the 10 string cittern. Something I've been able to keep with me all along.
-began Tang Soo Do training in 1968 and, though hampered by events, managed by the mid '80's to achieve 4th Degree (Master) ranking in that. Also achieved degree ranking in Tae Kwon Do (3rd), Hap Ki Do (1st) and Kum Do (1st).
-managed to graduate from Fork Union Military Academy, after attending since the 8th grade (my parents decided to leave me in one place at that point) in 1972. Just found out that 12 of my class mates are no longer with us- that out of a class numbering 89. Sad stuff.
-dropped out of Virginia Tech in 1973; heavily into student radicalism and some other extra-curricular activities. Anti war, pro labour. Joined the Communist Party in '72 while a student at Tech.
-worked for AMF Incorporated as a metal finisher from '73 until '76. Rose to journeyman ranking fairly quickly and, in '76, was making $13 per hour- quite high for the time. Was able to buy my first car... a Mustang 2 Ghia- black on black, four on the floor!!! A "chick magnet".
-joined the Navy in '76 for no other reason than to get back to Japan (loved it there- was there in '66 through '67). Mission accomplished- my first ship was the USS Kirk FF-1087 out of Yokosuka. Stayed from '77 until '80. Returned to states and shore duty with something I picked up... my first wife (from the Philippines).
-volunteered, and was accepted, to recommission the USS New Jersey BB-62... first marriage on the rocks; shore duty sucked. Stayed aboard until wounded in Beirut on 1 October 1983.
-discharged from the Navy on 31 August 1984 after a fairly long stay at the Naval Hospital in Bethesda. Continued recovery on an out-patient basis at the D.C. VA Center.
-returned to college, on the G.I. Bill, in 1985 and, in 1987 received a degree in Commercial Art/Photography "Summa Cum Laude" (3.96 average). Here, I met my current wife who was engaged in the same course work.
-came to the house I now occupy in 1988. The middle of nowhere in the rocker between Charlottesville and Richmond, and where I was born in 1954. Full circle, it seems.
-worked in the advertising field from 1988 until 1999. At that point, the owner of the firm I'd been with for nearly 5 1/2 years decided to engage in some extra marital fun and, as it goes, the business was part of the divorce settlement. When I got there one morning, there was a chain and lock on the door.
-as a stop-gap measure, I became employed in the prison system that year. It was supposed to be temporary but I suppose I got lazy/disenchanted/disheartened/whatever. Anyway, here I am. It was also during this time that, while tasked with an art job from the Irish Republican Socialist Party (leftist comrades), I began my journey into collecting.
-and so, in 2012, this is where I am. Of course, this is only some of the high (or low) lights... an over simplification of a life to date.
Nowadays, it seems one of few focuses in my life is the collecting, which is fine. I believe the "caretaking" of history to be a noble pursuit, and it continues to give me a great deal of pleasure. One of the aspects that I'm very motivated by these days is the collecting of a new, yet unrecognized, country- the PMR- and watching, through both study and collecting, how a country grows from an abstract idea to statehood. Exciting to be "on the ground floor" of this avenue of collecting.
It's be awhile since I last wrote... a fair amount of things going on in both my personal and paycheck lives- to quote David Bowie, "ch, ch, ch, changes..."; some changes- ok, some changes- not so ok and, to be frank, some changes I'm having a very difficult time supporting (most of those dealing with the paycheck life). But I won't bore all of you with the details; it has, after all, nothing to do with collecting.
Though I haven't written, I have steadily posted images to my galleries. A great deal of the items have been items already in the collections but there have been a few new items... I recently had the good fortune of acquiring a couple of fairly rare RPR (Romanian) pieces: a very early, numbered Border Guard badge and an early, numbered Honoured Radioman badge. Also picked up a couple of Soviet long service medals for the KGB (the variants with the Roman numerals on the front)- I also have a 20 year Georgian MOOP medal on the way. And, as usual, I was able to score a few more PMR (Transnistrian) awards. I believe my collection in this realm might be the most complete anywhere; don't know for sure, though.
Having a little challenge with the CPRF (Communist Party of the Russian Federation) end of things. I look at what's offered on Molotuk, ru. but, as I live in the States, I can't deal there. Been trying to talk some of my dealers in that neighborhood into getting the items I want but, because they are relatively inexpensive, I don't think they want to be bothered with them. The thing is, I collect items that appeal to me... if they are valuable, great! If not, they still appeal to me and have a place in the collection. I'm really not motivated by the value so much as the enjoyment of what I (we) do. Maybe that's why I'm not a seller, per se.
Looking down the barrel at 58... it will be here on the 28th. Hmmmmm, never thought I'd make it this far. Almost didn't (Beirut '83). For those who haven't made it that far yet, I have one thing to say (and remember this), "Getting old ain't for sissies!!!". You have got to be nail-chewing tough to take the ass whippin' old age deals out; almost on a daily basis. And friends, this is the absolute truth. When you look in the mirror to shave in the morning and you see your Grandfather looking back at you, and you remember all those things he told you which you wrote off as some old geezer's crap well, friends, the chickens have come home to roost! Payback is indeed what they say it is...
OK, I'm done ranting at that which cannot be changed. Will write more later...
Well, Father Frost's visit is on the horizon and the daily stampede at the local Wally World is now in full swing. The one good thing about the winter stampede versus the summer stampede is that people tend to wear more clothing during the winter stampede, thus saving the ocular nerves from the shock of 230+ pounds squeezed into "Daisy Dukes" and tube tops, as is the usual fair during the warmer weather here. Whew! I either need to quit going there altogether or move closer to the nearest college town (in my case, Charlottesville, Virginia) where the sights are bound to be easier on the eyes.
Edited a couple entries in my USSR gallery a few minutes ago due to recently acquired documents. If you get the chance, check out the "Defense of the Caucasus" entry. Nice document and I.D. for a female nurse with the 7th Independent Division. A Georgian document was added to the "Veteran of Labour" as well. Also, within the next couple of days, will have a new item and edit in my PMR gallery- check that out; the new item is fairly interesting.
Getting ready to establish a new gallery for Soviet (and bloc) Veterans badges... it's a new interest of mine that is largely spurred on by Paul Schmitt's most recent book, "Soviet Second World War Veteran Badges". Looking forward to that; should begin in a couple of days.
That's about all... other that working and collecting, I continue playing music here in the "sticks". Put down the 12 string acoustic and got out the old Tele just yesterday. Been on this jazz and old '50's kick lately.
Been awhile since I posted to this blog; haven't had alot to say, really. With the end of autumn and the coming of winter we're often plagued with grey days- lots of cold rain and mud. A sort of yearly depression sets in which evaporates around April. The only feeling I remember that approximates this is the feeling we got when we were at sea for long periods; up early to work at least 8-10 hours, in the sack for a couple hours, up for 4 hours of watch, back in the sack for a couple of hours, then do it all over. On the frigate (my first ship) the machinery got the fresh water, so it was weeks without a shower and your skin turned graphite grey from the grease that was used on virtually everything. All you saw was black sea that you sailed with 45 degree rolls and 10 degree pitches and you became a sort of zombie, doing everything from memory and with a blank, unemotional stare. It became difficult to sleep at times, so everyone carried these incredibly long, boring pocket novels that could knock you out by the fifth page. Of course, then you would hit a port like Olongapo, in the Philippines (!!!), the ship would hook up shore water, you'd take that "hollywood" shower and hit the beach, find comfort for the evening and all would be set right. Alive again! So, come on April!
I have been able to add a couple of items to the collections, which I've already posted in the appropriate galleries (have a look- they are recent). Also have a lead on at least 4 new medals from the PMR (Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic- also called Transnistria, an unrecognized, breakaway country (from Moldova) which kept most of it's former Soviet emblems... even the flag). I hope to get them by the new year. My PMR gallery is probably the most complete, with one possible exception, collection of PMR items anywhere so feel free to visit and leave a comment or two.
Added a few more pieces to the collection today... three medals to the PMR collection which I've already posted and one more veteran's medal (80 Years VDV) which I have yet to post. Two of the three PMR entries are Black Sea Cossack awards, one of which is quite rare in it's configuration. Have a look...
Congratulations to all the Photo Contest winners. I really enjoyed all the submissions I saw, both winning and non-winning... nice work! Was somewhat disappointed that no Soviet or Soviet bloc items made the cut- maybe next time.
Unfortunately, it seems our recent earthquake has caused some plumbing issues in the house and has caused the bulk of my concentration to be channeled in that direction. I have a "bandaid" on it at present, but am considering a nearly complete redo for the next several days as winter is coming. Just what I need at this point. At least I have a block of time (6 days) off to do the work.
A reprieve from the cold for a few days... temps soared into the 60's and, as I am off, got alot of work done around the house today. More tomorrow prior to returning to the grind on Friday (yes, I am on shift this weekend). This evening I got a chance to scan some DDR documents for the MfS (Stasi) sports organization, Dynamo and will couple these scans with their badges and add to my DDR collection tomorrow at some point. Two of the documents contain actual signatures (not stamps) of Erich Mielke, the Minister of State Security.
Also, two more badges and a book arrived from a contact in Chisinau earlier today... the book is a 2010 coffee-table book of PMR awards and medals given by the government to visiting entities. I already have the 2004 edition, so these are a full set of available books on the subject. The badges are both for the MVD there and one is the PMR's version of the old KGB "egg" badge- very excited to have one of those. It appears in both books and is considered an important militia award. Hope to take images of both for the PMR gallery tomorrow. Also got the idea of adding images of the books I use in collecting to the galleries- this may be of interest to those seeking information on a particular branch of awards collecting. And, as I consider these books to be an integral part of the collections to which they're affiliated, why not? While I don't generally share my sources, I can at least share the sources of knowledge. May help someone.
The judging of the photo competition must be in full swing by now and I do not envy the job of the judges. I saw so many really good images submitted. The good thing about being behind the commercial photography camera is that, other than your own impression of whether or not you've answered the customer's visual challenge, the customer's check say's you won. Pretty simple. So, in the spirit of that, I leave you with an image I shot back in the late '90's. As you can see, it was made into a poster. I shot it on 4" x 5", asa 50 Ektachrome with a Sinar view camera, 2400 watt-second Speedotron Black Line lighting system, set the type on an IBM pc and delivered it to a printer in Richmond who could handle the sheet size (one measure was 26" as I recall) and supervised the printing- 4 colour process with a varnish coat over the image of the girl to make it "pop". It was aimed at the Virginia Military Institute during the decision making process of whether of not to go co-ed. I understand Dabney Coleman (actor- you may remember him as the boss in "9 to 5") took 125 of them back to Hollywood with him. Apparently he attended VMI and was there on Alumni Day when the posters hit.
I have just submitted what may be my final entry into the contest and, as I poured over the work of the last couple of days, I can really see the "commercial" in the Commercial Art/Photography degree... overworked, clean, "just so". The artwork I do is basically the same. It's all good, and I'm glad I know how to do it, but there are times I wish that my art was more relaxed, "free-er" and with more expression. Seems I'm a good technician but I wonder about "artist"... but, hey, I am what I am (to paraphrase that sage of my past and fellow sailor, Popeye). Anyway, have a look. These were Orders given to the Romanian Securitate- State Security- and are quite nice looking trinkets. They seem to echo the feeling of the Carpathians, or, at least, the feeling we often impose on the Carpathians since reading Bram Stoker's opus.
Come to think of it, I may try at least one more tomorrow. All this refection has given me an idea for something in the way of the Order of Labour. We'll see...
Off this weekend after two hellish days which culminated in very nearly a fight (yes, the physical kind) between myself and another supervisor in front of both officers and offenders- not good. I believe I may have some anger management issues; of course, it could be that I've come to the realization that I do, indeed, have an expiration date and no longer wish to waste the time I have left on bull sh*t, regardless from whom it may come. Oh well, three days to cool off.
Put a few new entries in the Photo Competition. All are of pieces in the collections and are "straight" photography- no weird post shoot manipulations. Reasonably dramatic images taken with a 7MP camera with a mounted flash against a black background of an item combined with a close-up of the same item and cropped in a suitable way. Anyway, have a look and tell me what you think. I chose a few of my most appealing (not necessarily the most valuable) awards- mostly for their enamel work. The idea was to concentrate solely on the beauty and craftsmanship of the award with no distraction. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the images.
Well, I'm sitting here bemoaning the fact that my vacation has come to an end; at 0545 tomorrow I will return to the title "Sergeant" and attend morning muster at the "joint". I have enjoyed being called "Mr. Collins" and/or "Greg" these past eleven days. Did run into an ex-convict while shopping locally, but for the life of me I cannot remember her name. I guess when you deal with 1200+ on more or less a daily basis this is bound to happen. Wished her well; hope I don't have occasion to "welcome" her back.
Returned from D.C. earlier today (a bit after noon). It was good to see my Mother- it has been a year since we last saw each other although we talk by telephone at least once a week. She still has some of my best artwork and photography on her walls- Mothers are like that. Thought about entering some in the competition although I don't think that would be fair as they have already appeared publicly in print and/or exhibition.
Returned to a couple of goodies- no "great shakes" but nice additions to the collections. One interesting piece is a Rakosi-era tennis medal which I've placed in my Hungarian gallery- have a look. Nice, cased little medal. I believe I paid $6 for it. Also got word that the guy I deal with for Pridnestrovie (PMR) items has found me a copy of the latest "coffee table" book of awards the government produces for visiting big-wigs; I already have the 2004 edition, so I'm looking forward to the updated book. Should take about 3 weeks to arrive. A couple of other goodies will come with it- including a PMR MVD "egg" badge which is quite rare.
The temperature here continues to drop. Today it struggled to get out of the 50's because of the winds (gusts of 35 MPH). Not really cold unless you're used to 70's or higher (which we are). I'm no fan of winter as I no longer ski or skate (used to live in Montreal- long ago).
Will cut this short as I have to get some sleep soon. I don't know why, but the trip to D.C. is only 120 miles and yet it always seems soooooo long and really tires me out. Perhaps it is going from a rural, and fairly empty, environment to an overgrown, congested environment. Who knows?
Still on vacation :-)!!! Got a few things done today around the house (it's been quite wet lately which has severely inhibited outside work). Also (dammit, dammit) went out and bought a new cell phone to replace the one I LOST within a 20 yard area- inside the house- I absolutely can not find the damned thing. I HATE getting old and senile :-( ! Can't see anymore; can't hear anymore and wet weather really settles on my joints. CRAP! OK, I'm ranting again... On the up side, I found a new dvd I had been wanting, "Company 9"- it's about the earlier war in Afghanistan from a Soviet perspective. Will watch and review.
Just finished putting my last Bulgarian medal into the gallery; still have several badges to add, but the big work is finished for that gallery. Please have a look if you get the chance. Most of the medals are not rare, but Bulgaria had a certain flare for engraving and some of the pieces are quite beautiful- even the lower medals.
The great thing about these galleries is that it's also helping in my cataloging the items I have which, should something happen to me, will help my wife in deciding what to do with all of this. Something to think about, especially when one is "getting on" in years or has a high-risk job, or both. A friend died very suddenly several years ago (I was one of his pall-bearers); he left his wife in debt; he had amassed an incredible collection of artifacts from the American Civil War (had his own museum of sorts); left no information for his wife to go on and, before any of us knew, the "big guys" from up north came down in trucks, offered her pennies on the dollar and hauled it all away. She was in a state of bereavement and debt- she did what she thought she had to do at the time BECAUSE there was no advanced planning. I'm not going to let that happen if I can help it. Nor should you.
Hopefully it will be a better day tomorrow and I can take a few photos...
Finally, at long last, thought it would never come... I'm on vacation! Yep, 11 days of paid unemployment. Began with, what else, some photos to update a gallery- the DDR gallery to be precise. Came up with an idea of "ganging" series medals, much as I did with a few of the Hungarian medals a little while ago. A bit easier on the photographer (me) and, I feel, more interesting than if you had to look at a separate image for each. Take a look. Thinking of knocking the Stasi shield collection down to one image as well- more on that later.
Heading up to Northern Virginia during this time to visit my mother; may drop by the "occupation"... I participated in the late '60's-early '70's. Long hair... on my face as well, guitar, protest songs, take a drag of whatever is being passed around, "hell no, we won't go"... join the Navy four years later. Oh well... Anyway, the unions have joined in (I'm a member of one of those) and a certain political party of which I'm a member (betcha can't guess which one) has joined in the fray, so there will be friendly faces awaiting.
Also want to enter a couple more images in the contest (that should bring a smile to Mervyn). All this and what I have to do around the house as winter approaches should keep me more than occupied so that when I return to work, I should be suitably exhausted.
Another 2 days off is coming to an end as I have to work the weekend this week- the schedule we work gives us every other weekend off. But if I can make it through the weekend, I have the next eleven days off!!! Woopie! The benefits of having to keep your vacation time accrued within established limits. Too much time on the books.
Nothing much happening here... have had more photo opportunity regarding the galleries I'm maintaining. I've added quite a bit to the Bulgarian gallery (have a look) AND, though I was dreading it, began my DDR gallery. Only four images posted so far, but it is a beginning. And I did shoot a bunch this morning, so look for more before the day's done.
Interesting stuff going on near Wall Street. Kind of exciting; gets me feeling like the late '60's-early '70's again. Were I a bit younger, and less encumbered by the trappings of life, I'd probably go join in. Take my guitar, sing a few protest songs, indulge a bit in whatever was being passed around. Ah, memories...
Nine more days to shoot for the photo contest. I'd like to get a few more in before hanging it up. We'll see how it goes...
The weather has turned a bit cooler over a relatively short time (90's to 60's), and I'm beginning to get that sinking feeling that goes along with winter. Crap! As I have not relocated to sunnier climes, I have only myself to blame.
On the work front, the audit we were going through is now over and yes, we've been accredited yet again. Whew! Like a weight has been lifted. Our warden has moved on to much greener pastures (a promotion $$$), and we are now left wondering who's next... I have now been through 3 wardens. Had it out with my unit manager (sort of a "mini warden" for a single housing unit) and wondering how that will take shape. It was pretty bad, but it had been brewing for some time. I just "blew"... oh well, "no one expects the Spanish inquisition!". Also, and on the very down side of things, a good friend I worked with took his life last Friday. We shared the "Navy experience", had much in common, and I always looked forward to seeing him. I will miss him.
Off this weekend. Have been working on my galleries. I did get a chance to submit 4 images for the competition; hope to shoot more over the next two days, between the "must do's" here at home. More later.
It is dismal here for about the fourth day in a row... wet, dank and nasty. The sun has deserted us and I have a great crop of mushrooms- not the good kind (damn it)- growing on my lawn. It is difficult to get out and photograph more awards as I use the reflected sunlight for fill (my main light being the on-camera flash), so I'm concentrating on processing the images I already have and planning the next batch.
Most of my active collecting has been, well, over for a while now. The images I'm adding to the galleries are of awards and badges that have been with me for a good long while. Occasionally I'll get a new piece- maybe once every two months. I generally go for the "odd" things that amuse me these days (they're generally not expensive items), like the Georgia SSR Volunteer Police badge- you don't see those alot (Igor doesn't even have one right this minute).
I did get something, or a few somethings, new yesterday. Several documents from Pridnestrovie (PMR)... two large honour documents, two blank docs for the gold and silver 65th Year Victory in the GPW medals and a doc for a 50th Year Victory in the GPW ( Russian Fed medal issued by the PMR!). So, that was all good. Another doc was "thrown-in" to the mix... a Black Sea Cossack document of some kind- not an award, but maybe an invitation. More on that later.
Back to work for two days tomorrow and then off for the weekend. Added bonus... Friday is payday!!! What's not to like?
My first of two days off after two fairly hellish days at "the pen". Imagine being surrounded by 1200+ very needy persons of the female persuasion, the median age being around 26-32 and the median weight being around 150-190. Not a pretty picture. Oh yeah, and we all know from biology class that men are "xy" chromosome and women are "xx" chromosome... well let me tell you that there are many, MANY variations between these two "poles". Whew! But, enough of that.
The main images in my USSR gallery are in place (at long last); now to the more civilian items and the more obscure things. I'm putting up several images now, some of which are rarely seen such as the Volunteer Police badge from Georgia SSR (with doc). Have a look. By the way, does anyone but me know there are 3 Americans buried at the Kremlin? Yep, they are: John Reed (journalist and early American Communist), Charles Ruthenberg (a founder and leader of the American Communist Party) and Bill Haywood (well, part of his ashes are at the Kremlin; the rest are in Chicago), who formed the Industrial Workers of the World. Just thought I'd throw that in.
Got a chance to take some initial images for the Bulgarian gallery I hope to start. Most of my Bulgarian medals are "new/old stock"; probably never issued, bought from warehouses after 1991 and sold- this is not the case with the badges. However, everything is the genuine article.