We had decided months ago that we would travel to South Carolina to visit my in-laws Judith and John. They had been living in Portland, Maine for 12 years, and quite frankly, the winters had finally caught up with them, and well, they simply had enough of the cold and ice. So they packed up their bags, and moved to Hilton Head, SC. This was going to be our first time visiting since they moved there in November. And we were looking forward to seeing their new home as well as spending a few days in the warm sun. And it was clearly way warmer than back here in the cold, rainy, weather we had been having as of late. And there were a couple of other motivating factors.
"You know, there's alligators down there, and I'd love to see some." I said.
The last time I got to see an alligator up close and personal was back in 1982. I had traveled south to the Florida Keys to help a friend who was dealing with PTSD from the war, and, he was drinking a bit too much. Once I got there we had a few too many beers, and the next thing I knew, he was taking me to see some alligators. Under the influence of alcohol, I waded into the water and told my friend that I was gonna "out stare" this massive gator who was idling in about knee deep water. Now before you start thinking how crazy this is, let me just say up front. That this is one of the DUMBEST things I have ever done in my life. But I was drinking, and well, I was not thinking too clearly.
But make no mistake about it, this was beyond stupid.
Just looking at this pic gives me the creeps. But I'm still here. Oh and I'm 31 years sober this coming December. Still, it's right up there in the top 5 dumbest things I've ever done. *The other 4 are just as bad.
And yet, I still love seeing snakes, reptiles, and amphibions. So the thought of seeing another alligator (at a safe distance and sans alcohol) was really something I was looking forward to.
So we went looking for gators one afternoon and didn't have much luck. But the very next morning we found one. And get this, it was less than a hundred yards from their home. He was a small one (compared to the beast in the first photo) and he was just hanging out in a small lagoon next to the golf course. I don't know what it is about my fascination with reptiles and amphibibions, but I've had it since I was a young child. Maybe because I was so into dinosaurs when I was a kid. Or maybe, it was when we moved from the urban city when I was in the second grade, to the wild suburbs with swamps and woods in our backyard. I just know that I love to see them.
The other motivating factor was that we were less than an hour's drive from PARRIS ISLAND. For those of you who are not familiar with PI, it is without question, the most famous of all military Boot Camps. It is where they make United States Marines. I was there in 1969. That's 50 years ago. I really wanted to go back and see and hear the sounds of Marine Corps Bootcamp. There's something about being a Marine.
You've all heard the sayings: ONCE A MARINE ALWAYS A MARINE. Or...THE CHANGE IS FOREVER. It's all true. My life changed forever once I earned the title UNITED STATES MARINE. Now for all intents and purposes, I respect and honor all branches of the Military. I have relatives who served in every single branch.
But I'm a Marine and I wanted to go back to where it all started.
I'm standing in front of my old Battalion. The 2nd Recruit Training Battalion.
50 years later. Much has changed. There are no longer the wooden barracks. Or as we called it "The Barn". It's now all brick buildings with Air Conditioning. The thought of having AC would have meant the world to us 50 years ago.
Our platoon was on the upper deck. They tore all these old barracks down. Apparently they were there since WWII. It was hot inside that barn. And the Drill Instructors PT'd (Physical training with vigor) the shit out of us up there. Back in the 60's they were training us and preparing us for War. So, the way they went about doing that, has been written about in books, and portrayed in movies forever. No need for me to get into the details about Marine Corps Boot Camp. But suffice it to say, it was hard. Very hard. They didn't just hand out that coveted title of Marine to anyone who stepped on the Island.
You had to earn it. And unfortuantely (or fortunately) some didn't make it. Lots of young recruits washed out in the first three weeks. They wanted to weed out those who couldn'y "hack it".
They figured if you can't handle Boot Camp, you can't handle war.
Here I am standing where my old barrack's used to be 50 years later.
I'm not gonna lie, the memories came flooding back. And it seemed like time had stood still. I could still feel the need to run everywhere and to "HURRY UP! HURRY UP!"
Hearing the drill instructors yelling at the new recruits, I had this strange allure come over me. I could feel the swelling of pride well up inside me. I was hoping that it wasn't showing in front of Cory, Judith, and John. I mean it was 50 years ago.
How is that possible?
As luck would have it, I excelled in Boot Camp in 1969. I enjoyed the challenge and was motivated every step of the way. I knew all about the Marine Corps history and I wanted to be one of them. One of the things I really got good at was firing the M-14 on the Rifle Range.
This is a photo of me being awarded the LEATHERNECK AWARD for being the HIGH SHOOTER of my Platoon.
It was one of the proudest days of my life.
Me and Gunny Muldowney. He was the reason why I shot expert and out shot everyone on the Rifle Range that day. On qualification day, Gunny Muldowney grabbed a steaming "Meatball" sub off one of the benches. It belonged to a Rifle Coach who was a Corporal. Gunny Muldowney outranked him. Because I was his "Mouse" (I got his coffee for him, woke him up every morning at 0400, and did any thing else he wanted.) He would send his Mouse off to get it. He said to me "You shoot expert today Jimmy (He called me Jimmy because he thought I looked like Jimmy Durante) , and this sub is yours!"
Say what? I was stunned. But looking around at the other Drill Instructors I knew he was serious. That meatball sub looked and smelled so good.
Look, I came from a large Itailan family who knew how to eat. I was starving in Parris Island because we never had enough time to eat. Once I realized he was serious, I concentrated on shooting my M-14 the best that I could. I wasn't seeing Bullseyes on those targets, I was seeing "Meatballs."
From the 100 yard line to the 200 yard line, to the 300 yard line, and finally the 500 yard line. I was shooting the eyes off of those targets. I didn't just shoot expert, I was the HIGHEST SHOOTER that day on the entire Rifle Range! Whenever Muldowney handed me that sub, I wolfed it down in seconds flat. Good story huh? Well it would be if not for the real story behind that day.
In 1968 when I pre-enlisted, my Recruiter PROMISED me that I would be a Combat Artist. The Marines actually had a MOS (Military Occupation) from WWII right up until 2003 in IRAQ of having Marine Corps artists sit "back in the rear with the gear" and draw pictures of Marines in battle. That's what I was supposed to be. My plan in the 60's was to join the Marines, become an artist, and then when I got out, I'd go to Art School. Well I did all of that except, I never got to be a combat artist.
My DI's told me two days before graduation, when they were telling everyone what their MOS was going to be. "We don't need you drawing pictures- when you can shoot that good." I was stunned.
So, I became a Rifleman. My MOS was 0311.
In other words, I was a GRUNT. I was in the Infantry the whole time.
From Parris Island to Vietnam. I was a ground pounder Grunt, in the shit.
A god dammed "Meatball sub" almost got me killed. I never saw Gunny Muldowny again, and when I got home on leave, I went looking for my old recruiter, but he had been transferred. So much for drawing pictures.
* I did end up drawing pictures in Nam. But only on the helmets of the guys in my platoon. I'd draw whatever they wanted me to draw. Girls, Hot Rods, short time calendars, etc etc.
But I was still a Grunt. Not an artist.
So that's my story of how I became
a Marine Rifleman.
This is a photo of the Rifle Range in 1969. It's from my Platoon book.
Here we are on the same parade deck where I was awarded the HIGH SHOOTER AWARD.
Fifty years ago. John, Judith, Cory, and myself.
The day before graduation my parents surprised me and drove down to see me graduate. They called this family day. And they still do this today. This is a photo of me and my mother in 1969.
And this is a photo of me and my Mother-in-law Judith (with John) standing on the same sidewalk 50 years later.
Me and my parents in 1969. I know how proud they were of me that day.
God I miss them both. I wish they were still here so I could share this story
with them. 50 years is a long time. Thank God I still have these photos and memories of that time.
*One final note about Parris Island in 1969.
We were out on the parade deck one hot blistering day. Marching for what seemed to be hours on end. That hot black asphault. When something caught my eye. A car was racing down one of the streets, and ontop of the roof were - two surfboards! My heart sank.
Some Marine who was stationed there, was going surfing.
That feeling of missing surfing hit home more than anything I had felt since being there. Ironically, it (surfing) was one of my main motivators later in Vietnam. I can remember like it was yesterday, me saying to myself and writing it down in letters home. "I'm going to survive this war, because I am
not done with surfing yet." Yes, surfing saved my life. Surfing saved me back then, and then years later. Hence my mantra.
"Surfing, Marines, Family, and LOVE Heals All Wounds."
This is Kody Grondin pulling into a nice hollow section on May 10th, 2012. What's the old saying? The Apple dosen't fall far from the tree. I really liked this pic back then, and even more so today.
Photo by Ed O'Connell
*Click the photo above to see a larger version of Ed's Pic.
Now for Some Local, National and International News
This was quite a week of losing celebrities. In three days we lost three ICONS of Hollwood. Peggy Lipton, Doris Day, and Tim Conway. Some of you are probably wondering who these actors were. Well, Doris Day was the quintessential girl next door back in the day. In fact, I may have had a childhood crush on her back then. She was popular in the 40's, 50's, and 60's. She was a sweetheart of an actor.
That's Doris Day on the left and Peggy Lipton on the right.
Peggy Lipton got her start in Hollywood by being one of the three Hippie Cops in MOD SQUAD. It was a classic TV series back in the 60's. She also played several roles
in TWIN PEAKS. She was married to Quincy Jones at one time.
Tim Conway was a comic genius. I first became aware of Tim Conway when he was in McHale's Navy. He went on to be a regular on the Carol Burnette show where he had some of his most iconic comedic episodes. The collage above are just a few of the hilarious characters he played.
On Saturday May 18th, 2019 we (Cory, myself, David Robinson and his girlfriend Nancy) went and saw the super talented Johnny A. He does a show that is unlike anything you will ever hear and witness. His 60's British invasion set list is awesome. He plays alone on stage and builds guitar lines by recording (LIVE) on stage until the sound is so full you think there's an actual band on stage with him. If you ever get the chance, GO SEE JOHNNY A! You will not be disappointed.
Here's a pic of Johnny and David after the show. They traded LP's. David is the drummer and the creative force behind the CARS. There's a lot of Boston Rock and Roll history in this photo.
Cory wore her new Blue Leather Jacket that I bought her for Mother's Day. Hard to believe she's a mother of three adult children and three grandchildren. What's really hard to believe is, she's been with me for 35 years now. Love you baby!
SPRING and SUMMER of 2019 is looking GREAT!
I'm a BIG CARS fan. Love the band. So stoked to see this show and tribute.
This my friends is a MUST SEE SHOW! I have seen these guys every year since 1990. True. I love this band. Always have always will. I was trying to describe them to a friend the other day and it really is almost impossible. I mean there is no definitive record that I could recommend you to listen to. You'd have to do a series of them. Like GRETCHEN GOES TO NEBRASKA, followed by FAITH HOPE AND LOVE. Then the self titles LP KING'SX. Then you'd have to pick up DOG MAN and EAR CANDY. Oh what am I saying. Go buy them all! They are all GREAT. But if you had to select a few. These would be the ones to buy.
The DVD's are available at all the local surf shops. Or by
sending me an email. email@example.com or send a check for $20.00 made out to ADLANTIC and send it here:
c/o OC Studio Suites
703 Ocean Blvd Suite C-4
Hampton, NH 03842
Or RENT or BUY it Online. You have spoken and I have listened. You don't have a DVD player so I made it available Online. Watch it on your Smart TV, your computer, or your cellphone! I can't make this any easier my friends.
GRANITE GIRLS and The RIVER WOMEN from Ralph's Pic Of The Week on Vimeo.
NOW AVAILABLE on VIMEO ON DEMAND.
On Monday April 15th, 2019 the BLOG officially turned 15! FIFTEEN YEARS without missing a single week. This was the BIG Blog that I was mentioning weeks ago. HUNDREDS of NEW Pics and Old ones too. There's at least FOUR NEW Videos.
It's all in celebration of 15 years.
I've enjoyed every single week, every month, and every year!
KSM Photoshop of the Week
Wait what? Khaliddy was in the MOD SQUAD? No! I don't believe it. You mean to say that KSM somehow was in the MOD SQUAD in 1968? Leave it to Ole Khaliddy to weasal his way into this iconic American TV show. No wonder he's got such a msierable attitude about everyone and everything.
And so my friends, please take advantage of this weekly photo shop of the mastermind who planned 9-11 and resulted in the deaths of 3,000 innocent civilians by KSM (Khalid Sheik Mohammed).
*Note to self -must pick up a case of "Bell bottoms"
at Home Depot this week.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Brylee May 22nd!
GET WELL Sunny Garcia!
RIP Peggy Lipton.
RIP Doris Day.
RIP Tim Conway
GO BOSTON BRUINS!
FYI Lenny Nichols is looking for someone or someones to take over the ESA-NNE District. Please contact Lenny Nichols
by calling his cell (603) 944-2418
Support ALL The photographers who contribute to
Ralph's Pic Of The Week every week for the last 13 years.
** BUY a HIGH RES Photo
from any of the weeks on RPOTW.
my friends... Surfing Heals All Wounds.
Pray for Surf. Pray for Peace. Surf For Fun.