Wednesday, June 30, 2010

You can count on us.

One, two, three, four,
Two, two, three, four,
Three, two three, four,
Four, two, three, four...

And a partridge in a pear tree.

The heights in flute fashion

Casual enough for an afternoon rehearsal, formal enough for an evening pig roast, it's sure to find a home in every flutist's gig bag. Here, Bill Allen brightens up the section in his 2010 NMA tee-shirt.

More fun than a clarinet bonfire.

The Shy Tubas

Here's a picture of the tubas during rehearsal of the NMA Concert Band. Note that I said "tubas," not "tuba players." Can I help it if they duck behind their horns when they see me coming with a camera?

If you want good photographs, go to eBay and buy an old copy of Life magazine.

San Antonio Trombones

Okay,I've cracked a few trombone jokes in my life. I can't help it: I was stationed with Tex Waldron three times.

No jokes about their performance at this year's Navy Musicians Association reunion, though.More than one member told me they thought the 'bones were outstanding this year, in the Big Band as well as Concert Band.

I agree; it's just hard to admit it.

To the people of Texas:

I just spent a week in your state. Had a great time. Met you, liked you, ate some great Tex-Mex food.

But I won't be coming back.

Friends, I gotta ask: Why do you paint all your parking lots black? Don't you know the relationship between colors and heat retention? You know: white reflects, black absorbs? That kind of third-grade science class thing?
Texas starts the day at a temperature of 80 degrees, and works up from that baseline. It is not necessary to pave the state in order to create heat. God's giving it to you in spades.

Texas, I discovered, is fine, as long as you don't go outdoors. Bed? Great. Hotel lobby? Outstanding. It was only when I stepped outside that the searing flames of punishment permeated my being. Without a car,I had to walk from my hotel to nearby restaurants and stores. Every step was a flaming, torturous exercise in suicidal ideation.

Why all the black? Alternatives abound.

Cement has a nice natural color. Don't know what you'd call it; "cement colored," probably. Disperses the heat, it does.

I've seen asphalt done in light grey shades that show the gravelly texture, yet provide a smooth driving surface that reflects the sunlight here and there, preventing heat build-up.

But black? Come on. The road to hell is paved in black asphalt, just to give the new residents a taste of eternity. 

Like I said, had a great time. Good buddies, friendly locals, everything's big, big, big.

But you won't see Frank Mullen hoping across the asphalt again any time soon.

I get the message.

A delay in the NMA reunion wrap-up.

On Monday morning, I told you I'd be home at the end of the day and start wrapping up my coverage of the Navy Musicians Association on Tuesday, yesterday.

That was before the Trip Through the Outskirts of Hell.

It started smoothly. American Airlines got me to Dallas/Fort Worth without a glitch. I ran halfway across the state of Texas in time to board my 2:30 PM connecting flight to Moline. I was almost on the plane when the passengers were herded back into the terminal.

The toilet was broken. A mechanic would fix it in no time; flight delayed until 3:00 PM.

Mechanic delayed. Flight delayed until. 4:00 PM. Clouds roll in.

Toilet not fixed at 4:30 PM, as newscasters on large-screen TV discuss tropical storm Alex

Thunderbolts arrive at 5:00 PM. Flight cancelled. Passengers shipped to area hotels to spend the night.

I checked in the Hilton Hotel and found the business center; figured I'd post about the situation to my Navy buddies.

Internet access in Hilton Hotel business center is billed at a rate of $5 for every ten minutes. I love you, sailor, but not at $30 an hour.

Next day, back to the airport to hop on flight 3303 to Moline at Gate B5. Gate is changed to B24. I get to new gate just in time for a change: B4. Back at B4, gate is changed to B17. Then B12.

Finally, B6. We board. Captain announces, "The light switch in the rest room is broken, but a mechanic can fix it in no time."

Aiiee! This is where I came in.

So, now it's Wednesday, I'm finally back from Texas, having completed the trip from Texas to Illinois, over a period of two days at an average speed of 11 miles per hour. I've got a boss and coworkers who would prefer I come back to work rather than sit at my computer, posting to my Navy buddies.

So the Reunion Wrap-up will be delayed. I'll try to do it tonight. If I can't finish up, I'll dole out some more flimsy excuses. For example, the light switch in the bathroom doesn't work, but I can fix that in no time.

Monday, June 28, 2010

I'm outta here.

I'm sitting in the lobby of the San Antonio Doubletree Hotel, suitcase on floor, laptop in lap, waiting for the shuttle to take me to the airport.

This week, I'll post more photos of, and drivel about, the Navy Musicians Association. Sea stories, great gig stories, terrible gig stories, speculation as to whatever happened to good old so-and-so; so much more deserves to be publicized (and just as much deserves to be kept quiet). Oh, things you'll learn at an NMA reunion.

As tomorrow is a travel day, I won't be posting here. I remind you that John Derby's reunion photos and thoughts await you at his blog, Who Moved My Chops?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Farewell, San Antonio

Taps. Taps. Lights out. All hands return to their racks and maintain silence about the decks. Taps.

Taking care of the little things

One of my collateral duties as a member of the Navy Musicians Association is to drive Melanie Leketa crazy once a year.

Toward the end of the NMA Concert Band's Friday night concert, Melanie sings "Eternal Father" and "Requiem for a Friend." I then recite "We Serve With Honor" as the band plays "America, the Beautiful."

Melanie always has trouble during the rehearsal of this medley. The trouble is me. I check the microphone's switch 30 times. I move the microphone stand toward the band, away from the band, under the catering table. Later, as the concert is about to begin, I do these things again, each time telling her why. She tries to hide, but I track her down to tell her where we should stand, when I'll move the microphone, where she should face. At the last minute, I tell her how to turn on the microphone.

It never occurs to me that Melanie is an experienced, professional singer, adept at microphone technique, stage presence, ignoring glitches and making performance look effortless. In fact, four years ago, she taught me how to use the microphone.  

You can tell by the way she rolls her eyes that she appreciates my efforts.

Until we meet once more...

They're waiting for us back home: jobs, churches, volunteer bands, golfing pals and to-do lists.

We bid each other farewell, not knowing what the year holds in store for us, what joys and sorrows we'll bring to the next reunion.

Joy at being together and sorrow at our impending departures combine on Saturday night, when the Navy Musicians Association Concert Band concludes its performance.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Set condition "Darken Ship"

As the 2010 Navy Musicians Association reunion approaches its final evening, Navy Lyres goes dark.

In an hour, the concert band will play for the cocktail hour. We'll have dinner, speeches, no doubt, and a few sets of big band and rock 'n' roll.

Then it will be over. We'll toast each other one last time, say our goodbyes and pack up the gear so the equipment transportation crew can depart early in the morning.

I'm staying an extra day, so I'll be able to provide more reports tomorrow. But tonight, I'm taking off my blogging hat, whatever that is, to devote myself to one of the most joyous and bittersweet parts of an NMA reunion: the end. 

What went wrong?

It's down time at the Navy Musicians Assoication reunion. The concert band has finished it rehearsal for tonight, and we're all on liberty.

A good time to mention that something was missing at the membership meeting this morning: whining. Things never go perfectly at an NMA reunion--did you ever go on a cruise or tour where everything worked as planned?

Yet when President Chesson opened the floor for general comments, there was a serious lack of whining, bitching, moaning, kvetching and harping.

The board of directors is seriously wondering what they did wrong to deserve this

2012: Orlando, Florida

At the Saturday morning meeting of the membership of the Navy Musicians Association, Executive Vice-president Bob Leketa announced that the reunion of the Navy Musicians Association in 2012 will be in Orlando, Florida. The date is not yet set, nor is the venue; he already has proposals from 9 hotels, and lots of work remains to be done.

The definition of a loser

My enemy, the worthless Lee Hudson, just showed up at the Navy Musicians Association reunion. Two days late. Typical.

Lee tells me he got married this year and moved to Texas without a job or even a prospect thereof. Waiting to find a position in music education, Milton Leander Hudson, Ph.D, went to Wal-mart and filled out the 75-question online application form. He received an immediate response: Dr. Hudson is not qualified to work at Wal-mart and need not re-apply.

I can't tell you how happy this makes me. To think that Hudbucket is unqualified to sit on a stool in a stupid blue jacket, greeting people and handing them shopping carts fill my heart with unmeasurable joy, a joy that is in no way minimized by the knowledge that, within a week, he'd found a position as Assistant Director of Music in a nearby college.

Believe me, I was glad to be a sympathetic listening ear to an old shipmate who's been through hard times. I'm not the kind of guy who, on hearing such a tale, contains his glee until I he can duck around a corner.

I laughed in his face then and there.

What are shipmates for?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Victory at San Antonio

The Navy Musicans Association Concert Band performed "Victory at Sea" at tonight's performance. Here's a taste, enough to give you the feeling a fresh breeze in your face and a liberty card in your pocket.

Another source of NMA live-blogging

In a parallel dimension, NMA member John Derby is also blogging the Navy Musicians Association reunion at his site, Who moved my chops?

While he and I are old friends, I must point out that John is engaging in unfair competition: he knows how to operate a camera.

No fair.

You gotta know when to hold 'em

It has come to Big Frank's attention that poker is being played at the Navy Musicians Association reunion.

It is fortunate that Big Frank is unaware of the exact location of the game. Experience has shown that he is weak at some of the finer tactics of poker. These tactics include "bluffing," "poker face" and "folding."

Concert Band rehearsal

As promised, more video of the Navy Musicians Association reunion, provided by Frank's Lo-tech Productions.

In rehearsal for the Friday night performance,Wilbur Smith finds that progress is enhanced by getting everybody on the same page.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Here's a rare photo: NMA Executive Vice-president Bob Leketa at the piano.

Reunion week is generally Bob's busiest time. You'll often see him flying up and down the hallways of a reunion venue,collaring the hotel staff, holding emergency meetings with event managers, "putting out fires," as he calls it.

This year, however, things are going smoothly. So smoothly that he's had a few opportunities to do what so many of us come here to do: play.

I just finish playing a set in the lounge with Bob on piano. It's not something we often get to hear, and surprise, surprise: he's good.

Who knew?

You're either part of the conversation, or the topic

A Navy Musicians Association reunion isn't just about music. It's about shipmates. That means, if you're not here, we spend a lot of time time discussing, well, you.

--Charlie Niehoff keeps bringing up John Linscott's name. John, you might want to think about showing up next year, if only to defend yourself.

-- Showband West alumni--Frank Kemp, Ed Henson, John Derby and me--particularly miss Charlie Sweet. Charlie said yes to the reunion, but his doctor said no. John and I, in particular, were looking forward to offering Charlie heartfelt apologies for making 1977 a, shall we say, exceptionally difficult year for our old bandleader.

-- The good news is that my arch-enemy, Lee Hudson isn't here. The bad news is he's coming on Friday. I'll enjoy things while I can.

Each morning is a little easier

Our second morning of 0900 Big Band rehearsal was a little smoother. We've learned how much coffee is necessary to assure legato swing eighth-notes.

An early farewell.

The Navy Musicians Association reunion is just getting underway, the Big Band is swinging and folks are still arriving.

And some, sadly,are departing. Members and guests come for as much of the reunion as their schedules permit. My wife had only a few free days, and had to leave this morning. She made her farewells this morning--here, she says goodbye to NMA President Terry Chesson--and hopped on the shuttle to the airport.

I am now, once again, resonsible for monitoring my own behavior.

Break's over

I came to my first reunion after 10 years totally away from the piano. Now, thanks to the annual opportunity to perform with my shipmates, I play again. The piano is, again, an important part of my life.

New NMA member John Derby has me beat: he's returning to the guitar after a break of almost two decades. We played together last night for the first time since we were stationed together in 1977.

Thanks for retuning to the fold, John. And thanks, NMA, for the opportunity to be back on the bandstand with an old friend.

It's not easy being Cute at 0917

Neil Hefti probably had Dick Bonenfant in mind when he wrote this one.

The fleet's in...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Another first rehearsal

The Navy Musicians Association Concert Band's first rehearsal is always a challenge: rehearsal time is limited, the music is challenging and the performance is Friday. 

The band has always met the challenge, and will this year, too.

Old friends and new

The Navy Musicians Association Concert Band's first rehearsal introduced us to new acquaintances...

...and reunited us with old shipmates.

Unit Cohesion

It's not something you order from a catalog and spray in the air. Unit cohesion comes from working together. Today,the NMA's Big Band worked morning and afternoon, and it payed off. We swung.

A few notes

- Here we are, back at work playing. Members continue to arrive and fit themselves into the day's activities.

- Today's schedule is unusual. The NMA Concert Band will meet at 1700, rehearse for an hour, then join the rest of us for a beer bash provided by the hotel. Rehearsal will resume at 1900.

It is expected that this last session will be extremely productive.

- I played more piano last night and this morning than I'd played during the entire previous year. My arms are now useless, flapping appendages. Yo--NMA pianists--where are you?

First rehearsal

One thing is abundantly clear: 0900 comes a lot earlier than it used to.

Lots to do

You're not likely to run out of things to do at an NMA reunion. If you want to get away, it looks like a few other things may be going on in San Antonio.

Welcome aboard

Hand over your personnel records. Have you checked in with dental and medical? The disbursing office will reopen at 1300. Find a locker, stow your seabag and report back here at 0845 for a 0900 downbeat.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Tuesday night tradition.

It's not on the schedule, but it's an NMA tradition. Late on Tuesday afternoon, people start migrating to the lounge. When the proper instrumentation is achieved, the pre-reunion jam session begins. 

We're all anxious to play together after a year apart, so sometimes, the bandstand gets a bit crowded.

But, sometimes, just a trio plays...

...while their shipmates listen.

Here come the Seabees

Tomorrow, the Seabees will arrive.

Like the Navy Musicians Association, the Company E Seabees are holding their reunion at the San Antonio Doubletree Hotel. Unlike the NMA, this may be their last get-together.

The boys of Company E served during World War II. Like so many military reunion groups of that era, only a handful of members can still travel, and their active days are coming to a close.

Our board of directors has invited Company E to join us on Saturday night for the NMA dinner/dance, where the concert band will honor them with "Song of the Seabees."  (Mel Leketa, who hasn't left Virginia Beach yet, will pick up the music from the School of Music in Little Creek and bring it with along.)

Their presence will serve as a reminder that the Navy Musicians Association's Saturday night ceremony is not an evening of self-congratulation. It is a time we offer honor and ceremony to all who served before us.

The boys of Company E deserve our thanks. Fortunately, it's not to late for us to give it.

We are not alone

I'm not noticing any problems with my spiritual health, thank you, though I'm not the kind of guy who'll turn down the offer of professional bank services.

Not bad for a reunion that hasn't started yet

Jamming will begin presently... soon as the tech crew finishes jury-rigging the bandstand.

I don't know what the problem is, but the solution, clearly, is duct tape.

Leon Harris and Bill Sterck apply the Universal Solution

We have a quorum

MUs continue to roll in. I am informed by Bob Leketa that we are at strength to begin playing in the lounge tonight, or perhaps as early as 1600.

It is hard to believe that this--

-- will soon be the site of a riotous musical bacchanal.

We're picking up steam

Officers at work

The pianist has pounded out a Bb for tuning, the drummer is adjusting his cymbals, the bass player is plugging in to his amplifier and the saxes are shuffling through the music on their stands. It’s the first rehearsal of an NMA reunion.

You may wonder: how does all this equipment get here? Elves, probably. Maybe magic elephants haul this stuff from Virginia Beach on their backs. When they reach the hotel, the Amazing Kreskin closes his eyes, puts his fingers on his temples, and bass drums and string basses levitate off the elephants’ backs and float into the hotel.

Well, not exactly. The job of getting musical gear from Virginia Beach, halfway across the country and into a hotel is done by the NMA’s officers. These are not white-shoe, wardroom officers; these are amplifier-toting, piano-carrying, bass drum-schlepping officers. They do a lot of dirty work we never see.

All's quiet on the quarterdeck

The registration room is the quarterdeck of an NMA reunion. It is where newcomers get their first impression of our association's get-togethers, and where seasoned members look to see who has signed in.

Mariners of old knew that it's always quietest right before the storm. Deb Holl knows this, too. She's methodically battening down the hatches before the deluge of MUs begins.

One day to downbeat

Random stuff pours from my head. I'll do better after coffee.

--Although the NMA reunion begins tomorrow, shipmates have been filing in to the San Antonio Doubletree Hotel already. Yesterday brought Doyle Church, John Branam, Leon Harris, Ambrose O'Donnell and Rabbit Simmons.

--I saw Charlie Sweet on the list of folks who've registered for the reunion. Charlie and Doyle Church were my first unit leaders. I learned a lot from them. A first class petty officer was a pretty important guy to me in those days.

Monday, June 21, 2010


No drum roll, please

Terry Chesson and David Blakeley drove a van full of NMA gear from Virginia Beach to San Antonio.

Their advice for anyone who takes a 1,600 mile trip in a vehicle packed tight with drums, pianos, amplifiers, basses, music stands, lights and cartons of reunion gear: somewhere in that rat's nest, probably buried at the bottom, is a snare drum. Before turning on the ignition, turn off the snares. If you don't, they will rattle and roll, mile after mile, day after day.

Terry and David look a bit frazzled today. They've just driven halfway across the country in a permanent buzz roll.

There's a first time for everything

I forgot my underwear.

Okay, long story that we don't need to go into here. The point is, there's a Wal-mart nearby, I needed a few things, David Blakeley did, too, and he has wheels. So we drove to Wal-mart.

I've never been shopping with a guy before. He knew what he needed, I knew what I needed, we split up, got what we needed, paid and left.

Total time in-store: approximately seven minutes.

Don't believe Google Maps

Driving to San Antonio for the NMA reunion? Have a good trip, drive safely and, when you enter the San Antonio city limits, ignore your Google Maps printout of the location of the Doubletree Hotel.

The hotel is at the northeast corner of the intersection of McCullough Ave. and the I-410 loop/access road. It's not south of the I-410 loop/access road, where Google Maps has it.

Once again: Doubletree = NE corner, intersection of McCullough and I-410 loop/access road.

Believe me.

Still waking up..

Got in to San Antonio late last night...

Looked for shipmates in the obvious places...

...and went to bed.

The Daily Poop - Sun, 20JUN09

I'm outta here.

If the rain lets up so Jo can drive me to the airport. If the plane isn't grounded because of tornado warnings. If. If.

If all goes right, there'll be no more posting today. No Facebook. Nada. I'm in transit to San Antonio for the Navy Musicians Association reunion.

Though it doesn't officially begin until Wednesday, people will be dribbling in: folks who are combining the reunion with a bit of travel, early birds like me, NMA officers. Since I won't get in until late tonight (Sunday), I'll try to start posting tomorrow (Monday). Who's in town, who's not, what's happening, what is rumored to be happening. As I recall, "scuttlebutt" is the term.

That's it: a couple of days of scuttlebutt.

By the way, I promised low-tech videos this year, and I'm carrying through with the promise. I have no idea what I'm doing, but that didn't stop me from joining the Navy, and it won't stop me from posting a few videos during the reunion. In fact, within the last hour, I shot my first video, edited it and published it online. Here it is. 55 seconds of background noise, insufficient lighting and slamming doors. You'll find it impossible to believe I don't know what I'm doing.

Deep in the heart of Texas

Well, pardners, I'm here at the Doubletree Hotel in San Antonio. I got in at 11:15 PM and did what any sensible MU would do: I found the bar. It was closing down, but the bartender told me some of the Navy guys had already been in. I'm not the only early-bird in town.

I'm exhausted--taps, taps, all lights out. I'll post tomorrow morning after I've had a chance to get the lay of the land.

This will not happen way early in the A.M...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Daily Poop - Sat, 19JUN10

-- Last night, to put myself in the NMA mood, I watched a video of selected performances from last year's reunion. It was inspiring. The bands sounded better than I'd remembered, and my bald spot was less gigantic than I thought.

-- Sorry about recent posting delays. Midwestern thunderstorms require me to unplug my computer for extended periods.

A big one rolled through yesterday. Another is expected tomorrow, when I'm scheduled to fly from Moline International Airport to San Antonio. All I care about is that my flight gets off the ground. Once I'm up, the whole place can sink down to Davy Jones' locker, as far as I'm concerned.

-- The Master Traveler is bringing only one small carry-on suitcase. I've already tried getting everything in there, and it's like trying to squeeze a basketball into a shoebox. Now it's time to start jettisoning things. I seem to recall lengthy Showband West trips that involved washing socks in the sink, steaming out wrinkles in the shower and--aaiieee!--ironing. This can be done.

--I've heard from a few shipmates who can't attend this year. Jack Rodway and

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Daily Poop - Fri, 17JUN10

For those who haven't figured it out, it's all NMA reunion, all the time here at Navy Lyres.

-- A reminder for those who can't attend this year: I'll blog the reunion here at Navy Lyres. During the reunion--Wed, 23JUN through Sat, 26JUN, I'll update mornings, afternoons and evenings. 

-- I'm travelling to San Antonio a few days early. My plane tickets have me leaving Moline, Illinois on Sunday. Unfortunately, the National Weather Service has thunderstorms arriving that same day. We'll see what happens.

-- Weather predictions for our time in San Antonio include daily high temperatures around 95 degrees. Combine those daytime temps with the hot air that that will be flowing during evenings in the lounge,and you'll want to dress accordingly...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Daily Poop Part II - Thurs, 17JUN10 - Sailors, Musicians, Patriots

Originally published in the Rock Island Argus
and Moline Dispatch, June 17, 2010
Copyright 2010 Frank Mullen III

Lately, I find myself whistling "Anchors Aweigh" at the oddest times.

In a few days, I'll fly to San Antonio, Texas, to spend a few days with some of this country's finest musicians. I'm going to the annual reunion of the Navy Musicians Association.

Although some of us are still on active duty, most members have returned to civilian life after service in United States Navy bands. Our membership roster includes recording artists, music producers and Nashville studio musicians as well as schoolteachers, bus drivers and lawyers who play their clarinets and tubas on weekends at community band concerts.

Some were career military men and women; others were one-hitch sailors who were glad to get in the Navy and glad to get out. But we're all thankful to be back together once a year.

We share something more important than our common experience as military bandsmen: an indelible pride in service to our country, our shipmates and our Navy.

Our reunion is a few days of round-the-clock jam sessions and sea stories. On the closing night, we stand at respectful attention and sing the Navy Hymn in honor of our departed shipmates.

Like my comrades, I take pride in the contribution Navy bands have made to the Navy's mission and history. Yet, how often I've heard well-meaning people say to me, "Oh, you were just in a band? I thought you were in the real Navy."

I was, and so are today's young bandsmen. They willingly use their talents, not for personal gain, but in service to their country. They are sailors, musicians and patriots.

No one honors the flag of the United States more than Navy musicians do. On ships at sea and on naval bases at home and on foreign shores, when the American Flag is hoisted to preside over another day, that's a Navy band playing the National Anthem.

No one honors America's veterans more than Navy musicians do. When family and friends stand graveside at Arlington National Cemetery, bidding farewell to an old sailor, that's a lone Navy musician on the rolling hillside, sounding "Taps."

And no one does more to represent the Navy and its mission to the American public than Navy musicians. What does a recruiter do when he wants to promote the Navy at a public festival in a town park or city square? He asks a Navy band to perform.

In peace and war, the Navy's bandsmen are full-time sailors with full-time military responsibilities. About this, I need not brag; the story is better told by the spirits of the boys of Band 22, all of whom died at their battle stations in the ammunition hold of USS Arizona as horror rained from the skies over Pearl Harbor on that date that still lives in infamy.

Navy bands have changed since then. Sousa marches and Glenn Miller medleys still form a vital part of the repertoire, but today's bandsmen and women can rock 'n' roll, too. In fact, that's exactly what they'll be doing in Schweibert Riverfront Park in Rock Island at 7 p.m. on July 3, when Navy Band Great Lakes' contemporary music ensemble, Horizon, performs for the Independence Day celebration. The band plays jazz, rock and pop music with a youthful energy and mature expertise that the audience is sure to enjoy.

Although probably not as much as the old guy who'll be sitting in a lawn chair, wearing a blue Navy Musicians Association tee-shirt.

The Daily Poop - Thurs, 17JUN10 - "Put Me Back in Crackerjacks."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Daily Poop - Wed, 16JUN10

Today, a few notes for those who will travel to San Antonio by air.

-- Airport transportation: The Doubletree Hotel's airport shuttle runs around the clock, not on a set scheduled but on as "as-needed" basis. Use tghe touchscreen device at the airport to arrange a pickup.

-- Walkable eating places: A few days ago I posted a brief list of eateries within walking distance of the hotel. That list is incomplete, as more dining opportunities exist in the North Star Mall (see next).

-- Shopping for bare necessities. Across McCullough Ave. is the North Star Mall. A couple of blocks south on Jones Maltsberger Road is Wal-mart. Fashion problems solved.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Daily Poop - Tues, 15JUN10

I'm flying to the NMA reunion again. This year, because I'll spend the major part of the trip on Big Jim's Cut-rate Airline and Damaged Luggage Emporium, I'm playing it safe and bringing only a carry-on bag. Wardrobe 2010 will have to fit in a 22x14x9 suitcase.

This severely limits the number of fashion accessories and that will make the trip to San Antonio. Sorry, ukulele, you'll have to stay home this year. But I get better at packing for reunions each year. If you're flying, you, too can jauntily swing through airports with only one bag if you'll follow

Frank's NMA Packing Tips

-- NMA shirts rule. I used to bring both NMA shirts and polo shirts. Why? An NMA shirt is a polo shirt.

-- How many pairs of pants does a guy need? No matter what variety of trousers I pack, I still wind up wearing jeans through the most of the week.

--Jackets are for wearing. Last year I learned to fold my Saturday night sports jacket inside-out, which did an only-fair job of preventing wrinkles. This year, I'll do what the bold, super-savvy travelers do: wear the jacket onto the airplane and take it off for the flight.

--Pack one-way skivvies. Tightly packed suitcases make it difficult to bring home souvenirs, NMA goodies or other curios. Frank's solution? Pack your worst, falling- apart, threadbare skivvies and discard them during the week, creating suitcase space for new acquisitions.  What? You don't have falling-apart, threadbare skivvies? Oh. Never mind.

--Remember the Alamo and Wal-mart. I have no idea where the Alamo is, or if I'll get there, but I do know there's a Wal-mart only a couple of blocks from the Doubletree. This means certain inexpensive toiletries may never find their way into my suitcase.

Jeez, this is too easy. I think I may have room for the ukulele after all.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Daily Poop - Mon, 14JUN10

I came across this while poking around in the Navy Lyres archives. I feel the same today as I did when I wrote it in 2008.


I found sea duty difficult.

As the band's chief, I was the referee of a Texas cage match among sixteen professional wrestlers.

I was the marriage counselor for the sax player who got the bad letter from his wife.

I was trip planner who had to beg for an admiral's barge so the combo would be ashore in time.

I was the guy who sucked up to the laundry petty officer so the trio would have clean whites for the captain's reception.

I was the whipping boy for the MCPOC who hated the band and would have reamed out my boys if I didn't let him unleash it all on me.

I was nursemaid, babysitter, tour director and music theory teacher.

Sometimes I was even the chaplain, the shepherd who brought comfort to the desolate.

And when I got the call in the Indian Ocean that my father was dying, my boys did the same for me.

At times, I wanted to crawl into the nearest empty locker and hold my breath until the cruise was over.

And there were times I felt sorry for everyone in the world who was not, at that very moment, on a ship of the United States Navy in the Indian Ocean conducting this ragtag collection 16-piece bagband through "Anchors Aweigh" during unreps.

Most people, despite their love of country and their respect for our service, cannot understand this.

You, my shipmates, understand.

See you soon in San Antonio.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Daily Poop - Sun, 13JUN10

The NMA reunion won't be the only hot action while you're in San Antonio. You might want to slip away for one of these events listed at the online source of news and culture, San Antonio Current:
  • -- Wednesday night. Live at the White Rabbit: "Upon A Burning Body." Also "Haste the Day" and "My Children My Bride." I guess these are bands. Kind of makes you long for the days of "Four Jacks and a Jill" and "The Melodymen."
  • -- Thursday night. At the Jump-Start Performing Arts Center: "As Filthy as it Gets." The promo says it all: "The rowdy, raunchy Methane Sisters try to regain their former rock fame with a hot new band, live rock concert performances, racy music videos and lots of feminine hygiene product giveaways."
  • -- Friday night. Who wants to sit around with those boring old men and their clarinets when you could be at The Mix, thrilling to the melodic strains of Boxcar Satan and Martyrhead?
  • -- Saturday night. Cap off the week with a deep, meaningful evening of professional wrestling at Burro Land Ice House.
Come to think of it, maybe you'd be better off sticking around in the hotel lounge with the rest of us. A few more choruses of "Satin Doll" or "Fly Me to the Moon" is starting to sound better and better.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Daily Poop - Sat, 12JUN10

If you're new to NavyLyres, or haven't been here in a while, here's what's going on:

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The 2010 Navy Musicians Association reunion--June 23-26, in San Antonio, Texas--is just over the horizon. If you haven't registered, chop chop, Do the Hustle, get with the program. Information on registering for the reunion, reserving a room, etc, is available at the NMA website.

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The Daily Poop will appear, well, daily, until the reunion begins. Sometimes, more often. This is NavyLyres's busiest time of year. I hear from those who are coming, those who can't come this year, and those who haven't made up their minds. I'm glad to get your news; it's often worth passing on to everyone. What's up? Are you coming? Who are you looking forward to seeing? Drop me a line.

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One of this site's most popular features is the Navy Musician's Lexicon. Stop by for a few laughs.

It's been a challenging year for many of us, our complicated lives further stirred up by economic worries. All I can say is, I am so ready for this reunion.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

San Antonio Chow Call

Musicians, as anyone who has ever watched a Navy band attack the hors d'oeuvres table during breaks, need to eat.

Our hotel has a restaurant, of course, and San Antonio, no doubt, has fine places to dine. But we're often interested in slipping out to a nearby spot between rehearsals, for lunch or an evening meal.

Here's a partial list of restaurants within walking distance of our hotel--a half-mile, mas o menos. (That's Spanish for "You need the exercise.")

  • - Smokey Onion
  • - Texas Land and Cattle Steak House
  • - Applebee's Neighborhood Grill
  • - Sea Island Shrimp House
  • - Thai Lo Restaurant and Sushi
  • - Church's Chicken
  • - Chick-fil-a
and my two personal favorites:
  • - The Cheesecake Factory
  • - Bubba's Burgers and Steaks (really)

The Daily Poop - Thurs, 10JUN10

A number of first-timers ask about attire at the Navy Musicians Association reunion. Please allow the Chief Fashion Advisor (FAC) to promulgate information concerning dress.

Wednesday through Friday is decidedly casual. We dress comfortably and informally for rehearsals, jam sessions and impromptu get-togethers in the lounge.

You'll see a number of members wearing NMA shirts and caps. These items, the closest thing we have to a "uniform," are optional and available at our small stores.

While there are no strict rules of dress, tradition provides us guidelines, particularly for the last official function of the reunion, the Saturday night Banquet.

Members tend to dress up for this occasion. It is solemn, as we sing "Eternal Father" in honor of departed comrades, stirring, as our band performs patriotic favorites, nostalgic, as we suddenly snap to attention when the service medley reaches a climactic "Anchors Aweigh, and a damn lot of fun when the bands play for dancing. We are, uniquely, both performers and guests on Saturday night, and dress accordingly.

Toting jackets and ties around the country, however, is not always easy, particularly for those who fly. I, the Chief Fashion Advisor (FAC), who usually sets the standard for correct, appropriate attire at NMA reunions, will be traveling by airplane, and may leave my jacket at home this year. 

In summary, pack for a few days of relaxation, culminating in a meaningful and enjoyable evening of remembrance, nostalgia, dinner and dancing.