Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The week in review

Bleary-eyed, exhausted and home. That's what I am. Actually, I got home late Monday, but have spent the intervening time in a recuperative stupor.

But my brain is back, and I find myself already looking back fondly at a reunion that was a stand-out affair.

-- It was big. I'll get the true figures, but the last time I looked at the sign-in sheet on Friday, over 120 of us had reported in.

-- We attracted lots of new-comers and long-time-no-sees. A lot of us work hard during the year to convince shipmates to give the reunion a try, the result of interlocking recruiting efforts. I, for instance, wanted to assign myself full credit for getting Dave Czohara to his first reunion, but discovered a dozen others trying to bathe in the same glory. I'm already excited about next year. Like Virginia Beach, Orlando, our destination next year, is home to boatloads of retired and former MUs. This could jolt the size and quality of our get-togethers up another notch.

-- We brought in younger MUs. No one has ever confused the NMA with the Fountain of Youth; age, we accept, is relative and subjective. But the energy brought by newcomers Marty Nau and John Jensen, and active-duty member Carl Gerhard--energy shared in the lounge and lobby as well as on the bandstand--was a palpable force. We can, indeed attract younger members, and it is they who can best attract their peers.

-- The music was excellent. John Branam has hit his stride as rehearsal director, and, aided by volunteer assistants, kept bands playing. Concert band director Wilbur Smith's programming choices presented a challenge, and the band responded with fervor and finesse. Friday night's concert showed both bands at their best. To see the concert band's members and director performing later in the rock band showed that the versatility of Navy bandsmen is a life-long trait.

The NMA is a year-round blessing that keeps me in touch with old friends and helps me feel a part of something important. But those four days at the end of June are crucial to maintaining that enthusiasm. Our Board of Directors outdid themselves this year. Or the players outdid themselves. Or the newcomers, or the old-timers. I don't know, but something's working in the NMA.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A quick note while the WI-FI is working

Nothing would please me more than to spend this day, my last in Viriginia Beach, than dumping streams of photos, videos and tall stories about the NMA reunion onto the Internet.

Sigh. As regular visitors have notice, the Internet service in the hotel has been, shall we say, spotty. It comes and goes; when it comes, I do my best, and when it goes, I fume. In fact, I spent a long, productive phone call straightening out IP numbers with the hotel's tech consultant, Ashwanibad Kabindawal, who dispenses Internet advice from Bombay.

Rest assured, I will do my best to provide more. If fate conspires against me, I'll redouble my efforts on Tuesday, when I'll be back home in corn country on good old FarmNet, about which I will never again complain.

In recent years I have observed an inverse relationship between the quality of a hotel and and the dependability of its Internet service. The better the digs, the worse the web.

Perhaps the Board of Directors would consider holding the next reunion at the Orlando Econo-Lodge.

Retire the colors

Until we meet once more...

Our seabags are packed and we're heading home.

Our homes are in different ports, and they call us back to families, jobs, responsibilities.

But throughout the lobby on Sunday morning, you'll hear everyone saying the same four words, words that sum up our feelings about the week, each other and the NMA:

"See you next year."

Good morning. Good night.

I did something I haven't done since the days of the Brass Bell, the Shipwreck Lounge and the Reef: I closed the place down.

It was the last night of the NMA reunion. Now it's the first day of the rest of the year.

But first, a few more hours of shut-eye. I will be back. With stories. With photos.

And with a glad heart.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Thanks to Melanie Leketa

As I noted earlier, Melanie Leketa pitched in to fill out our concert band's instrumentation by playing a clarinet borrowed from Terry Chesson. Everyone agrees that she did a fine job; more than one member has noted that Terry's clarinet never sounded better . . .

NMA Membership Meeting 2011

Here's the unofficial, unedited, sort-of-accurate rundown of the annual Saturday morning meeting of the members of the Navy Musicians Association:

-- President Chesson spoke on the various ways members may contribute to the NMA in addition to taking positions as elected officers. Recruiting new members, of course, is Job One; it's every member's responsibility to pass the word to potential members.Some members make financial donations to the NMA far beyond their dues. Suggestions may be forwarded to the President or other board member at any time during the year, but nobody needs a special request chit to promote the NMA.

-- Executive Vice-president continues negotiations to select a hotel for next-year's Orlando reunion. Three venues remain on the short-list, but make no mistakes--we'll be in Florida next year.

In addition, he solicited comments on the operation of this year's reunion, adding the suggestion, "If you like it, tell me; if you don't, tell Kim Holl."

-- Vice-president Kim Holl, chairman of the Nominating Committee told us that all current members of the Board of Directors had agreed to serve, if re-elected, one more term. By acclamation, with no dissenting votes, all nominees were elected to serve another term.

-- A large topic at the meeting, as well as in the corridors during the week, was the proposed cutbacks to funding for military bands. In a separate posting, I will harangue you to write to your senators.

-- On conclusion of the meeting, members were dismissed with liberty passes that expire at the 1800 social hour that precedes the annual banquet. It is hoped that this flotilla of MUs will not cause too much havoc while on the beach; this is a Navy town, and the Shore Patrol is busy enough handling active-duty problems.

Friday, June 24, 2011

How much fun can a guy take?

The needs of the NMA

The Navy Musicians Association will accommodate you whenever possible; a happy sailor is a productive sailor.

Your dream sheet may list your three top reunion priorites as big band, jam session and sea stories. But remember, the needs of the NMA come first.

Singer Melanie Leketa was reminded of this when the detailer assigned her to the concert band's clarinet section.

Friday Afternoon Sitrep

We're still arriving. Tom Metcalf last night, Ray Ascione afternoon. It's always difficult to get officers rounded up.

Second-time attendee Pete Codispoti finished his day's work in Pennslyvania and couldn't wait one more day to leave for the reunion. He took off in his car and arrived in Virginia Beach at one in the morning, chowed down at Denny's and hung out until we woke up the next day. We were bleary eyed and coffee-starved, and Pete was ready to go.

Lee Hudson did not bring his tuba this year. I dance in the sweet rain of God's blessings.

The concert band has worked unusually hard this week. Smitty talked to the Board and wangled us an extra rearsal this afternoon. The workout smoothed the rough edges and tightened up what looks like a tremendous concert this evening.

I don't have an official count yet, but we filled all the hotel rooms. The last time I saw the sign-in sheet, well over a hundred members had registered. They're still arriving (see paragraph one). This year may bring us record attendance.

The concert will seque into a jam session tonight, no doubt. You will pardon me if I have little online this evening--I'm hoping to be busy.

Pride in service

The party's over.

The reunion continues, but the good times have screeched to a halt.

Lee Hudson has arrived, hauling along with him his bottomelss seabag full of personality defects and character flaws.

Last night in the lounge


The place was packed and we played fast, slow, loud and late.

And those of us on the bandstand had no more fun than those in the crowd.

All the Things You Are

The NMA's new secret weapon

With its capability of virtually-instant deployment and low manpower-requirements, the NMA's new Fast Attack Stealth Duo has proven its worth. Shown here in the lobby of the Holiday Inn, the John Derby--Max Murray FASD demonstrates the unit's value as a financially self-sustaining operation.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

How many times do I have to tell you?

I've told you on Leger Lines.

I've told you at Navy Lyres.

I've told you face to face:

Check. The. Rehearsal. Board.

NMA Unit Band # 57

As always, the strength of a Navy band is its capacity to break down into smaller ensembles.

The key to a succsessful performance . . .

. . . is to finish strong.

You can lie to yourself if you don't listen carefully

Yesterday, I promised myself I'd go to bed early. Really.

I've been telling myself that for days, but always wound  pushing midnight with friends in the lobby, the lounge or at the pool. Yesterday, I meant it. Really.

I left the jam session at nine while the band was still cooking. Came upstairs, posted here a bit and decided to hit the rack. But a quiet voice said, "Things are probably winding down in the bar. Why not go say goodnight?"

Saying goodnight turned into saying "yes" to a few tunes with the band. Just a few, Frank.

A few tunes turned into an entire set. Finally said goodnight and came upstairs to hit the rack.

Which I was ready to do, except--well, CZ was downstairs, I'd hardly seen him since he arrived. Chet had showed up, too, and I'd heard that John Derby was playing bass.

So there it was, eleven at night--well, slightly after eleven, so no more of this running back to the lounge. I'd made a promise to myself: I was going to bed early.

Really I was.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Hail fellow, well met

Particulary on the first day of the NMA reunion, you'll see old pals embracing each other, hearts overflowing with fond memories.

The scene depicted here, however, is not intended to resemble the emotions that will be flowing through my sould when Lee Hudson finally shows up.

Finally--the downbeat

Sometime in the morning, the stands are set up, the piano plugged in and the music passed out, and we're ready to play.

Well, almost.

First, Rehearsal Director John Branam has to get us all playing on the same page. At the same time. On the same chart.

But when he does, the same thing happens that happened last year, and the year before that, and the year before that:

We swing.

Greetings between juniors and seniors

I saw my first master chief, J.J. Connor, getting out of his car outside the hotel.

"Hi, master chief," I said.

"Hi, Mullen," he replied.

Mullen. He still calls me 'Mullen.'"

It sounded good. Real good.

Ahoy there, shipmate

"Frank," called the guy walking into the bar with a trumpet case. "How are you?:.

"Good to see you, Carl." I said. "I just heard you were coming."

We got to talking about friends in common, duty stations and the Navy days. LT Carl Gerhard is still having his Navy days. He's the XO of the School of Music and a card-carrying, jazz-blowing member of the NMA. Our brief greeting was typical of those between many NMA shipmates, typical in the sense that we were glad to see each other, had a lot to talk about and had never met before.

Shakedown day

The roughes day of a cruise or road trip is the first. The band hasn't found its routine yet. Gremlins and glitches join forces to thwart progress. But, no doubt, we'll hit our stride--as soon as we find a three-pronged plug, the stand lights and the 2nd alto book.

The calm before the storm

At 0800, the Holiday Inn was still quiet. But hidden in a corner was a vivid reminder of the pandemonium to come.

The pre- kickoff

So I stroll down to the lounge at eight last night, figuring a few early-birds will probably show up, play a few tunes and hit the rack early.

I was wrong.

The bar was packed, the band was cooking, and the whole place stayed packed and cooking for hours. I stuck it out until eleven, when it hit me: this is fun, but I can't stay up all night--I gotta go to a reunion tomorrow morning.

Film at eleven, or whenever I get a moment. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What a difference a year made

A lot of reunion time is spent finding out what your shipmates have been up to.
In Dave Whitaker's case, it's interesting to see what he's down to.

Dave and his doctor had a little talk--perhaps the sort discussion we used to call a "counseling session"-- after last year's San Antonio get-together. Obviously, Dave listened.

My old shipmate has lost 100 pounds this year. He's so fit and energetic that, when I first ran into him yesterday, I didn't recognize him.

Until he started talking. Some things haven't changed.

Tension in the bar

The equipment is set up in the lounge. The place is packed. Horn players are roaming the room like sharks.

Drummers and bassists are also present. They are safe from attack, but their time is limited.

Because, sooner or later, a pianist will walk in. The critical mass will be achieved. The sharks will descend upon him, some forcing him onto the bandstand while other pull trumpets from cases and altos from gig bags.

Then one will utter the words of doom that will trap the rhythm section for the evening:

"'Don't Get Around Much Anymore,'" key of 'C,' sax has the pickups, one, two, three, four, one."

For the style-conscious MU

As always, the fashion-conscious MU will find a broad selection of NMA garb available for sale in the registration room.

This year, however, brings something I particularly prize: the time-honored, simple unit cap. A basic blue cover with unit name and logo emblazoned in gold, it's just like those worn by millions of Navy vets who take pride in their service and still honor its traditions.

Just like us.

Welcome aboard.

The NMA's highly-skilled staff of registrars sits poised to welcome you to the reunion with a friendly smile, a hearty hello and an endless stream of haranguing, harassment and general disparagement.

Report to the quarterdeck

The NMA doesn't really have a quarterdeck, so you don't have to remember which comes first--saluting the National Ensign or saluting the OOD. But you do have remember to sign in, so we know who's here.

But even if you're a day early, you might as well sign in and avoid the rush

Back in a Navy town, for sure

Last evening, a panel truck drove by the hotel bearing a sign that said: "24-hour Tattoo Removal."

What seems like a good idea when the bartender says "Last call" doesn't necessarily have the same magic the following morning when the adjutant says, "First Call."

Morning scuttlebutt - Tues., 21JUN11

Please pardon the currently high text-to-picture ratio. The hotel's WI-FI is still awkward, and I'm posting from the business center. Of course, those who enjoy photos without Mullen Auto-Blur may be pleased by the change.

- - - - - -

As always on pre-reunion Tuesdays, the rumors about who's coming are flying around the hotel. My old neighbor, Phil Heim is expected. I lived around the corner from Phil in Fredericksburg, VA for eight years. We ran with the same crowd of musicians, gigged together occasionally, sat in at the same jam sessions and, for those eight years, never knew we had both served as Navy musicians. On active duty, you knew the whole life story of guys you'd been playing with for two weeks.
- - - - - -

The weather has been surprisingly tolerable for the last few days here in the Heat Stroke capital of Americam , the evenings notably cool as pleasant. Still, I wouldn't particlarly jump at the chance to join the School of Music Marine Element on their daily jog around the Naval Amphibious Base.

Sorry if the pace temporarily slows down

Holiday Inn amenities: first class.

Holiday Inn service: second to none.

Holiday Inn WI-FI: third world.

It's not too late to get off the fence

I met with NMA President Terry Chesson in the Holiday Inn lounge last night. Advance registrations for the NMA reunion are at or above usual levels. Since a lot of attendees register at the door, and a number of first-timers and irregulars are expected, it looks like a big one.

How about you? There's still time to say, "Honey, how important is that church potluck on Thursday night?"

Monday, June 20, 2011

Watch a great mind at work.

This year, I've decided to put extra effort into learning the names of members' spouses.

This afternoon, I ran into our rehearsal conductor, John Branam, who introduced me to his wife, Cindy. How do I remember that six hours later? Simple, since I already know they live in Indiana.

Indiana / Indians / Westerns / Western Territories / Arizona / John McCain / John and Cindy McCain / Joan and Cindy Branam.

Cindy. John Branam's wife's name is Cindy.

See how easy it is?

Heavy weather

We've taken on a bit of water today. Duh--it's summer in Virgina.

Live it up

I'm not worried about expenses here in Virginia Beach. Any number of nearby institutions stand ready to help finance the week's activivies.

Chris at the helm

Flying to the NMA reunion? Arranging transportation to the Holiday Inn is easy. Follow signs for Ground Transportation. By the luggage carousel are free phones. Dial the listed code and the desk clerk will tell you when to expect Chris or one of his fellow drivers. He'll pick you up outside and whisk you here pronto.

Oh, and be sure you don't get off at the Hampton Inn, or you'll spend the week at the annual meeting of the Association of North American Manufacturers of Synthetic Flooring Materials.

Could be fun, but their band ain't much.

A sort-of quick cup of coffee

This morning, I left my room and went downstairs to get a cup of coffee. It took me 2 minutes to get down, and 45 minutes to get back up. I ran into a couple of MUs--Jim and Stephanie Richards--and there was a lot to talk about.

Jim, Stephanie, Bob, Leon, Kim--considering that the reunion doesn't start for two more days, I've run into quite a few of us already.
This photo shot with Mullen-brand Auto-blur.
You'll be enjoying a lot of it this week.

Hotracking at the Holiday Inn

Hard as it may be to believe, the NMA is not the only group that meets at the Holiday Inn. Last night, what we think of as our registration room was the site of someone else's get-together.

The 351st has now left, and the NMA is moving in. This morning, I ran into Bob Leketa, Kim Holl and Leon Harris, who had just finished moving our equipment into the hotel.

Oh, what bad timing on my part. I missed all the fun.

Home, Sweet Home

I has arrived.I got in late last night and checked in the Holiday Inn. I'm still exhausted, so I may engage in a little late-morning rack time. But let me say this: When my driver dropped me off in front of the hotel, I the outside was familiar...

but, inside: wow. as NMA President Terry Chesson told us in the Leger Lines, the place has been way, way renovated. 

I'll post more this afternoon. Right now, zzzzzzzzz.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I'm out of here

I'll be leaving soon for the Quad Cities Airport for my flight to Virginia Beach--if thunderstorms don't delay or cancel my flight. I'll arrive this evening, if thunderstorms don't reroute my flight to South Orlando Municipal Airport.

Yeah, I keep mentioning thunderstorms. You would too, if you'd been looking at the weather map. But last year, tornadoes were predicted, and it turned out to be baloney. Who knows?

So, I'll be out of touch today. But starting tomorrow, I'll be posting from Virginia Beach. Although the reunion, as always, doesn't start until Wednesday, things start to simmer in advance--people start drifting in, I hear from people who have made last-minute decisions to come to the reunion and some who have sadly had to cancel, scuttlebutt--ah, welcome back to the Navy--begins to circulate the halls of the hotel.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hurry up, reunion

Last night I finished my last shift at the local library. I fly to Virginia Beach tomorrow. I'm remembering that antsy feeling from the Navy, when you've signed out at the quarterdeck, picked up your leave papers, but still have to wait overnight for your flight.

I should be packing, but I'm blogging, looking for news of the defense budget, answering emails.

And thinking about the year since the last NMA reunion.

I've lost a dear shipmate. First among my regrets is that I didn't work harder to convince him to join our organization and come to a reunion. Woulda, shoulda, coulda.

Another shipmate suffered a serious health challenge early this year, but seems to be coming out the other end of the tunnel with all his running lights on.

These things point out to me the value of my membership in the Navy Musicians Association. For a few days, I am reminded of some of the best years of my life. And I get to share those memories with the same people who made those years so good. I've made new friends, too, men and women I never saw in crackerjacks.

We are not immortal. But we're still growing, I think, and that's what makes our reunions meaningful. They're as much about today as they are about long-gone Unit Band 54.

It's a funny thing; you see your old friend Bill or Jack or Dave in the hotel lobby and rush to greet him. As you give him a hug, you're saying, "You look great--I haven't seen you since that Med cruise," but in your mind, you're thinking, "My god, he looks like hell."

As the two of you get to talking, you see occasional flashes of your youthful buddy in this old man's face. You promise to meet again later in the lounge, or the restaurant or registration room.

And when you do, you see him across the room and instantly think, "Damn--he hasn't changed a bit."

Enough. Time to pack. This in-between antsy feeling is killing me.

Friend of Navy music recommended for CNO

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has recommended ADM Jonathan Greenert for nomination as the next Chief of Naval Operations.
ADM Greenert is a friend to Navy music. In 2009, as he was finishing his duties as Commander of U.S. Fleet Forces and preparing to take the position of Vice-CNO, he was our guest at the Navy Musicians Association reunion.

The Daily Poop - Sat., 18JUN11


Sadly, my wife will not be coming to the reunion this year.

Nurses' work schedules are notoriously iffy. We'd hope that she'd be able to come at least for a few days, like she did last year. Alas, it is not to be.

I'll just have to soldier on without her.

If you're coming to Virginia Beach without  a car, there are a number of conveniences within hoofing-it distance of the Holiday Inn.

This is not to knock the hotel's restaurant. Ashley's is a fine dining spot, and you'll find NMA members dining there whether or not we're gathered for music and fun. But there are other nearby options for eatining and picking up various neccessities:

Within a hop, skip and a jump: 
  • Denny's 
  • 7-11.
Within a hop, skip, jump and quick dash across the  highway:
  • Ruby Tuesday.
Within a hop, skip, jump, dash across a highway and a few minutes of heavy breathing:
  •  Rite Aid Pharmacy
  • Subway Sandwiches
  • Arrowhead Plaza Shopping Center

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Daily Poop II - Fri., 17JUN11

The Senate Armed Services Committee has released the summary of its final markup session yesterday. There is no mention of cuts to military bands.

This doesn't mean cuts, perhaps severe cuts, weren't included. While waiting for detail information, I'm trying to put a positive interpretation on the fact the military band cutbacks are not mentioned. The best I can do is this: "Gee, you'd think that if they'd made severe cuts in funding for military bands, they'd be headlining it in 72-point Times New Roman, so I guess..."

Actually, I don't guess anything. There's too much to weigh. Yes, the House version of the military budget contained a multi-million dollar cut in military band funding, but the entire sum wouldn't have bought a wheel-bearing for an F-35. Well, you know what I mean.

We'll see.

The Daily Poop - Fri., 17JUN11

Been hearin' from a few of us who can't come to the reunion this year. I'll miss you, OJ, Everett, Frank, John. But in answer to your questions, yes, I'll be live blogging the NMA reunion again this year. These sappy little instalments of The Daily Poop will end on Sunday, when I'll fly out of Moline International (HaHa) Airport. Monday, I'll begin the warm-up from Virginia Beach.

- - - - - -

Last year I flew to San Antonio with just one piece of carry-on luggage. I'm trying to remember how I got everything in there.

- - - - - -

Lee Hudson. A seed stuck between your teeth. Chalk on a blackboard. Need I say more?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Excellence: all in a day's work for Navy bands

June 16, 2011
Rock Island Argus
Moline Dispatch

 One afternoon in late December of 1975, a trombone player pounded on my barracks door.

 "Liberty is cancelled!" he hollered. "Jump in your working uniform and get to rehearsal: we're doing Bob Hope's Christmas show tonight!"

 This was news to me. As a Navy Musician, I checked the band's schedule daily. When I went to sleep, I always knew whether the next day would bring a few military ceremonies, public concerts or perhaps the beginning of a cruise.

When the rest of Navy Band San Francisco and I stumbled into our rehearsal hall, we learned what had happened. A glitch in Bob Hope's travel plans had given the legendary entertainer an unscheduled evening off. Instead of complaining, he'd called the nearest military band and said, like they did in those old movies:

"Let's put on a show."

Not many people would have had the nerve to make such a request. But we were a military band, and Bob Hope was, well, Bob Hope. For him, "Support Our Troops" wasn't a bumper sticker; it was a way of life. He got what he wanted, and what he wanted was to perform that night for the injured veterans at the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital.

So, while Mr. Hope caught up on his sleep, his manager raced to the Naval base with the musical arrangements for the show. We didn't have time to rehearse everything, so we played only the hardest pieces, trusting experience and training to get us through the performance.  

It worked. Bob Hope's show—the jokes he'd been telling for 30 years and the music we'd rehearsed for 30 seconds--was a welcome holiday gift for that audience of wounded warriors; you could tell by the glistening tears in their eyes as they sang along with "White Christmas" in their wheelchairs and gurneys.

The Vietnam War was over and congress was cutting the budget for military bands. Fortunately, my band had survived the financial trimming. Over the years, I've often wondered: what sort of Christmas would those vets have had if congressional cutbacks had eliminated my Navy band? I can just imagine Bob Hope's manager trying to hire a civilian band: 
"I need an 18-piece group to play old-time swing music, current pop hits, patriotic songs and Christmas carols. The music is of professional-level difficulty, but the band will have to play most of it without any preparation because they'll only have a half-hour rehearsal, starting in 45 minutes. The show begins in three hours. Can you do it?"
For a civilian band, an impossible request; for a military band, a typical day's work.

The National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, now awaiting action by the Senate, would crush the budget for military bands to fragments. I hope enough senators know what their forebears knew when the Vietnam War ended: military bands are not frills. They are an integral part of our Armed Forces. Military music is a force multiplier that raises morale, lends dignity to ceremonial occasions and boosts crucial public support for the Services.

This is Navy Week in the Quad Cities. Among other events, Navy Band Great Lakes is in town to perform jazz, pop, rock and good old patriotic band music. Check them out at the fairgrounds, the air show or the park. You'll see the Navy's bands are still earning their keep.

Certainly, in hard times we have to tighten up our military budget. But ask any sailor: there's a big difference between trimming your sails and chopping down the mast.
- - - - - - - - - -
Copyright 2011 Frank Mullen III

The Daily Poop - Thurs., 16JUN11

Advance registration figures show that this year's NMA reunion could be a big one. I've been guessing that, despite the economy, this might be the case. Economics is about making choices, and it looks like a lot of us have chosen to spend time with our shipmates. This is terrific.

And the reunion is shaping into a terrific event, too. NMA President Terry Chesson says it's official: we'll have a Saturday evening visit from the ceremonial unit of the U.S. Fleet Forces Band. Call them CINCLANT, call them Fleet Forces, they're excellent. Better than excellent; I'd say that if they went head to head in competition with the NMA Concert Band, the issue would be in doubt...

Seriously, those of us who have witnessed their performance before will tell you they're the tops. And I think they enjoy the gig, too; it's not often a band plays for an audience that gives a standing ovation when they walk onthe bandstand.

Terry also confirms that the guest speaker on Saturday night will be the Commanding Officer of the School of Music, CDR Ralph Ingraham. I promise to listen politely, and I may even applaud. But if Ralph starts singing "New York, New York," I'm gonna grab the microphone and tell the entire room about the time he . . .

Whoops, I almost forgot: you gotta come to the reunion to hear the stories.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Preserve funding for military bands

Today, the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012--the military budget--comes out of subcommittees to the full Senate Armed Services Committee. We do not yet know how the Personnel Committee, in particular, handled the severe cuts to military band funding that the House of Representatives has proposed. I would not expect them to be screaming "Paaarty!" and throwing hundred-dollar bills around senate chambers.

Now, the full SASC will "mark-up,"i.e., finalize, the figures for presentation to the full Senate.

- - - - -

To: All members, Senate Armed Services Committee
      All members, SASC Personnel Subcommittee
Subj: Preserve funding for military bands
Sent: Monday, 13JUN11

I urge you to reconsider the drastic budget cuts for military bands contained in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012.

Our military bands are not frills. They are an integral part of our armed forces, force multipliers that boost morale, lend dignity to ceremonial occasions and drum up crucial public support for our Armed Services.

We ask so much of the American fighting man and woman, and get so much in return. They deserve the finest.

Frank Mullen III,
Former Chief Musician,
United States Navy

The Daily Poop - Wed., 15JUN11

What they're up to:

My old San Francisco shipmate, Bob Nolan spent time this week sending messages in support of funding for military bands to the Senate Armed Forces Committee.
Frank Kemp is planning to attend the reunion in Orlando next year, or Virginia Beach in '13. Those west coast guys truly operate in a different time zone.
Lee Hudson is working on ways to make the reunion a miserable experience for me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Daily Poop - Tues., 14JUN11

One week from today, Tuesday the 21st, the Early Birds will be roaming the hotel. I wouldn't be surprised if the evening ends with a little jamming in the lounge. It's happened before. In fact, I've been to five reunions, and every one of them has wound up with the backfield in motion before the starting whistle.

Yesterday, I wrote to all the members of the Senate Armed Forces Committee and Personnel Subcommittee, urging them to preserve funding for military bands. I'm not the only one who did this--I've heard from others.

If you wish to have input into this budget, The Personnel Committee is meeting today. They will propose a budget that the full committee will review tomorrow, Wednesday and, if necessary, Thursday. The time to write is last week, yesterday or right now.

Instructions on how to quickly send an email are in the post below.

I'm gonna try reeeally hard this year to not do the this awful thing I do at the reunions. I get so excited about the Live-blog that, even before things have started happening, I take pictures and post them with descriptions of what's gonna happen. As in,
  • "Here's the bar. It's empty, but. boy, things will be jumping soon."
  • "Hard to believe that this desolate lobby, shown here in a photo taken at 3AM when even the desk clerks are nodding out, will soon be a beehive of activity."
I'll try hard, really I will. the problem is, I tell myself this same thing every year.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Want to keep military bands funded? You Must Act Now

The short version:

If you want to preserve military bands, write to the Personnel Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Forces Committee right now. Scroll down to the section "HOW." Do it now. Later is too late.

The fuller version:

The National Defense Authorization Act that will provide the budget for—or decimation of—military bands will be finalized in the Senate within days. Subcommittees of the Senate Armed Services Committee are going into "markup" for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This means changes to the military budget are being "marked up"; in other words, finalized.

Here's the schedule:

-- Subcommittees are in markup Tuesday, June 14 and early Wednesday, June 15. On that first day, the Personnel Committee is in markup. It has oversight of Morale, Welfare and Recreation services, so I'm guessing this is the subcommittee that will set the budget for military bands.

-- The full Senate Armed Forces Committee is in markup late Wednesday, June 15, and Thursday, June 16.

What this means: write now. Not later in the week. Now.

To whom? At this point, everyone on the full committee and Personnel Subcommittee, or any one of them.


Pick a senator from the list below. Find his or her name on this page ,click on his or her name, and you'll be given an online form. In the box, write a clear, short message. Like,
I urge you to maintain funding for military bands in the Defense Authorization Act. Here's why: XXXX. Thank you, signed, Your Name.
(At this point, be smart and copy your message to your clipboard.)

Now, send your message. Feel good about yourself for five seconds, then go back to this page again
. Pick another senator, and paste The Same Message from you clipboard. Send and repeat as needed.
- - - - - - - -
Subcommittee on Personnel – Meets Tuesday
Senator Webb --Chairman
Senator Graham -- Ranking Member
Senator Lieberman
Senator Akaka
Senator McCaskill
Senator Hagan
Senator Begich
Senator Blumenthal
Senator Chambliss
Senator Brown (Scott)
Senator Ayotte
Senator Collins
Senator Vitter

Full Committee—meets late Wednesday and Thursday
Carl Levin -- Chairman
John McCain--
Joseph I. Lieberman
Jack Reed
Daniel K. Akaka
Ben Nelson
Jim Webb
Claire McCaskill
Mark Udall
Kay R. Hagan
Mark Begich
Joe Manchin III
Jeanne Shaheen
Kirsten E. Gillibrand
Richard Blumenthal
James M. Inhofe
Jeff Sessions
Saxby Chambliss
Roger F. Wicker
Scott P. Brown
Rob Portman
Kelly Ayotte
Susan M. Collins
Lindsey Graham
John Cornyn
David Vitter

The Daily Poop - Mon., 13JUN11

In one week, I'll be in Virginia Beach. I'm arriving a couple of days early, to get a head start on enjoying the brisk and invigorating air of Virginia Beach in late June. I'll be blogging from the hotel starting on Monday.

- - - - - - - -

 Speaking of which:

Recently I sent a message--"Live-blogging the Reunion"-- to every email address on the NMA roster . If you didn't get it, the NMA doesn't have your correct address. They can't email you. I can't email you. Long-lost shipmates who just found your name can't contact you.

Could be you forgot to tell the NMA you've changed your email address. Could be a problem with your email provider. Could be a transcription problem--the address you hastily scribbled on your registration form might not have been as clear as you thought, dear

Go to the NMA roster and click on your name. Is the address correct? If not, tell the webmaster.

- - - - - - - -

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Daily Poop - Sun., 12JUN11

Whaddaya mean, you're not coming to the NMA reunion because you can get away for four or five day? You don't need to. Many of us come for ony part of the reunion.

Because of work and other obligations, some members don't arrive until Friday. That's okay--our major functions are on Friday and Saturday evenings. Conversely, some have to be back home on the weekend and arrive Tuesday or Wednesday for a few days of fun, friendship and music.

You don't have to do a full tour.

- - - - - - - -
While I love making new friends at each reunion, there's still a lot to be said for meeting up with old shipmates. This year, I'm particularly looking forward to seeing Dave Czohara--"C.Z."--who will be in Virginia Beach for his first reunion.

I haven't seen The Polish Prince in a quarter of a century, but I've been in contact with him through social networking.  He seems to be a positive-thinking, upbeat people-person.

My, how we change.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Daily Poop - Sat., 11JUN11

Holy smokes--the NMA reunion begins in only 10 days. That's no time at all--I spent longer stretches of time than that writing charts in the chief's mess in the flicker of a battle lantern while the Blue Ridge ran loss-of-power drills in the Indian Ocean.
- - - - - - - -

The wife of an old shipmate wrote to me and said that she and her husband have a happy marriage. But, she said, "I've come to accept the fact that the best days of his life were with you and the Navy guys." 

- - - - - - - -

I keep hearing that the Holiday Inn has been renovated. New faucets in the men's room and a digital "Schlitz" sign over the bar? Actually, it looks like they've done a bit more than that:

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Daily Poop - Fri., 10JUN11

In the recent issue of Leger Lines, I saw that the NMA reunion features an an optional cruise on the Spirit of Norfolk. Here's what I want to know: is there anyone in the NMA who was ever stationed in Norfolk or Little Creek who hasn't played on the Spirit of Norfolk? When I was stationed at the school, I gigged on the Love Boat, at various times, with MUs John Pastin, Phil Field, Max Stumf, Roy Mahoney, Steve Dimond, Clem Skinner and half the guys from the CINCLANT band. It wasn't the worst sea duty; I made $29.50 a night.
- - - - - - - -

Even though I don't drink anymore, I've been thinking about making a field trip during the reunion to the Brass Bell on Independence Boulevard. For a number years the Bell was my home away home. It was a hangout for three Navy units: the School of Music, Seal Team Two and a Mobile Training Unit. We got along pretty well, all things considered, and when you walk into a crowed bar and the only empty stool is next to a Seal, there's a lot to consider.

- - - - - - - -

I don't know which I like more: NMA reunions in even-numbered years at various locations, or reunions in odd-number years in Virginia Beach. The "away" games are always new and exciting, but there's a lot to be said for these "home port" get-togethers: we know the facility, and the hotel management is familiar with our needs. I guess neither is better; they're both great.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Daily Poop -- Thurs., 9JUN11

Have you registered for the reunion yet? You can do it when you arrive in Virginia Beach, of course, but it's easier on the system if you do it in advance.

- - - - - - - -

A few decades of water flowing under the bridge has carried me to a time of life where I'm more mature, open-minded and forgiving.

Except where Lee Hudson is concerned. He's coming to the NMA reunion again. All the way from Texas. I gotta say, he goes to great lengths to annoy me.

Fortunately, he'll only be in Virginia Beach for a few days. At least I'll get some peace.

- - - - - - - -

One of the strangest excuses for missing a Navy Musicians Association reunion is "I can't leave the bar."

In the case of Tex Waldron, it's for real. Tex ("Mack," as he's called on the Coast) owns and runs a Seattle jazz club, which keeps him busy. Of course, we'd prefer he was serenading us with his sweet trombone tone in Virginia Beach, but, as you can see, running a night club is a full-time gig:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Daily Poop -- Wed, 8JUN11

The Navy Musicians Association reunion begins two weeks from today. Officially, that is. I'll be sneaking into town Sunday night, June 19; I need the extra time to learn how to use my camera. Figuring out how to turn on the flash would improve my coverage of the reunions significantly.
- - - - - - - -
An important thing I've learned about our reunions is they're not just about old friends--new friends are a major part of the attraction. Some of the guys I met at my first reunion five years ago--Ralph Hasty, Dennis Bear and Bob Montogmery come to mind--are now guys I look forward to seeing again every year and miss if family obligations keep them away. I'm happy to say that Pete Codispoti will be back this year. Pete was with us in Virginia Beach in '09 and was a major contributor to my Fun Index. He was also a big factor in lifting the NMA Rock Band to new heights of, well, something-or-other.
- - - - - - - -
 The rock band, by the way, needs a name. Geriatric and the Pacemakers?
- - - - - - - -
Once more, with feeling:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Daily Poop - 7JUN11

News, views and snooze in preparation for the Navy Musicians Association reunion.

Two weeks and a wakeup.
- - - - - - - -
Two of my old Navy Band Newport shipmates will be returning to the NMA reunion after missing the fun in San Antonio last year: Max Murry (bass) and Tom Wholley (piano) came to the reunion for the first time in Virginia Beach two years ago. I'm glad they've agreed to a second chorus.
- - - - - - - -
Newporter Jack Rodway, however, will not be in attendance. He and his wife Mickie are selling their house and moving in early July, and the timing is too close. I have issued Jack a Certificate of Validity for this excuse. It's a one-reunion, non-renewable note of forgiveness, and you don't want too many of them in your file.
- - - - - - - -
Wouldn't you know it: just as I send out the notices that the annual Daily Poop season has begun, redesigns its blogging interface. Everything you do to get the scoop online is revamped, altered, just plain pain-in-the-butt different. It looks like the learning curve well be, well, vertical.

But these changes all happen "under the hood." You, the loyal patron, won't notice anything different. You can count on the same smooth, high class journalism you expect from a humble guy like me.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Daily Poop - Monday, 6JUN11

NMA Officers Planning 2011 Reunion. 
Barely two weeks until the NMA reunion officially begins in Virginia Beach. Two weeks of incessant blogging. Welcome to Year Four of The Daily Poop.
- - - - - - - -
I've had a few questions about ground transportation from the airport to the hotel--some of us are flying to Virginia Beach for the first time. Arranging a shuttle ride from the airport is easy--the details are here.
- - - - - - - -
Lucky me--I get a warm-up for the reunion. The week before the reunion will be Navy Week here in the Quad Cities area of western Illinois/eastern Iowa. (We've had this honor before and, believe me, it's a big deal here in Corn Country, USA.) Navy Band Great Lakes will give a number of performances. I've seen the pop/rock contignet, "Horizon" before--NMA member John Pastin's son Chris was the drummer. This year, I'm hoping to catch the jazz and concert bands; I imagine those youngsters will compare pretty well to our NMA bands...
- - - - - - - -

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dear Senator: Preserve Military Band Funding

The thought that congress might cut the budget for military bands is no longer a vague worry. The threat is now on active duty.

The House of Representatives has approved the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012. This bill reduces military band funding by more than 1/3, reducing the current appropriation of $320 million to $200 million.


I have strong, although mixed, feelings about this.Yes, I support military music. Yes, I know how bands contribute to our armed forces, how hard they work and how well they succeed in promoting morale, recruiting, public relations and tradition.

And, yes, I also know that our country is in a fiscal mess. Three-year-olds and nations must learn they can't have everything they want.

There's a lot we could debate here. Even if you're convinced, as I am, that strong, versatile music programs contribute greatly toward the military's mission, does the Army really need 4,000 musicians and 100 bands? Time is critical, so I'm not going to start that debate right now. What I'm going to do is write to my senators and ask them to consider reducing or eliminating the cuts in the bill.

It's not too late. I know I should have contacted my representative in the House weeks ago, but as the Washington Post reported,
More than 150 amendments to the defense bill had been approved for debate, and in a rush to get the bill passed, [the chairman of the Armed Services Committee] packaged dozens of them together for passage by voice vote.
In other words, the amendment to reduce band funding, (introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN)), was passed with scores of other amendments"en banc." That's French for "all at once, in a rush, without discussion."

If there is to be deliberation--and horse-trading--it will be in the Senate. If you feel that military music is an asset worth preserving, I urge you to tell your senator. Pronto.

It's never been so easy to do.  This list links you to a web form for contacting both of your senators. You can write to him or her and have your message in your senator's office in ten minutes.

I feel strongly enough to consider it an obligation to do what I can, even if it's not much. And it's not just an obligation; petitioning the government is also, as I recall, a right, guaranteed me by the First Amendment.