Saturday, December 20, 2008

A CHARLIE FLIGHT CHRISTMAS

Dear Friends,

When I was trying to think of a way to wish all of my friends a "Merry Christmas", I suddenly found myself writing a poem of sorts...oh, it's not a totally original poem (I'm not that creative). I took the poem, " TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS", changed the title and took many liberties with the poem itself. The end result was, "A CHARLIE FLIGHT CHRISTMAS". I hope you like it, and that it brings a smile to your face. And, whether you served on Crete when I was there or during a different time, or perhaps not at all, may I take this moment to wish all of you a very "Merry Christmas", and may God bless us all!

Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",

Bob (Midget) Armistead



A CHARLIE FLIGHT CHRISTMAS

‘Twas the mid before Christmas and all through the pound,
Those dits and dahs were making a helluva sound!
I sat at my position, my eye lids a saggin
The guy next to me was barfin’...the next one was gaggin’.

We’d all been to a party – had one helluva time.
We all drank raki...and chased it with wine.
There were no sugarplums that danced in our heads.
We were all so hung over, we wished we were dead!

With eyes that were crossed and mouths that were droolin
We sat at our racks...no one were we foolin’.
Our eyes were blood shot, our speech was all slurred;
We couldn’t walk straight and our vision was blurred!

The linguists were listening - all snug at their receivers
While trying to act busy like drunk little beavers.
They sipped on their coffee as black as cow dung.
They couldn’t understand their own native tongue!

Greg and Jack watched the X-2’s and kept them in check,
Most of them looked like they’d been in a wreck!
Their clothes were disheveled; their hair was a mess.
None of them was sober...or so I would guess.

Up front the maps hung from the ceiling with care
While analysts tracked jets that weren’t even there.
They typed up reports that no one could read,
And their eyes were so red they had started to bleed.

I sat at my typewriter and searched for the keys.
My head was a noddin’. Man, I needed some zzz’s.
When suddenly up front there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my feet and listened to the chatter.

With headsets still on I raced toward the front;
When my patchcord ran out I let out a grunt.
My feet flew up and I came down with a crash,
And to my surprise I landed flat on my ass!

Just then the doors opened and all became quiet
And in stepped Santa to hush that damn riot.
He was dressed in fatigues, white hair and a beard,
Combat boots and M-16. Man, he sure looked weird!

He said not a word but went straight to each rack.
And gave every airman a present right from his sack.
To some he gave whiskey and others got beer,
Some got cigarettes or other holiday cheer.

But to all who were there and witnessed that sight,
There was only one gift we all wanted that night:
To be back with our families and all of our friends.
Santa promised next year to work toward those ends.

We went back to our racks, and without a sound,
Santa walked out the door and left the compound.
He climbed in his jeep and zoomed out of sight,
All the time waving and shouting, “Merry Christmas, Charlie Flight”!

Friday, August 29, 2008

KHOULES & THE CHURCH OF ST. TITUS












UPPER LEFT PHOTO: The Venetian Fortress, Khoules, in the Heraklion harbor.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: The Church of Saint Titus at night in Heraklion.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

GREEK FRIENDS I'VE MADE













UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Popi Mavrakis (L) and Bob Armistead (R). Popi had a small taverna down on the beach where she served cold drinks, sandwiches, and ice cream to the beach-goers. I would go down to her taverna almost every day and have a cold Mythos or two...or three.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: George Stamataki (L) and Bob Armistead (R). George was one of the kindest and nicest men that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. George is the owner of the Marirena Hotel and the Dionysus Taverna (Restaurant). He allowed me to use his internet access to make entries on my blog, and to keep in touch with family and friends back in the USA via E-Mail.











UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Maria (L) and Bob Armistead (R). Maria worked at the Marirena Hotel and the Dionysus Taverna (Restaurant). Maria would bring me coffee or a coke almost every morning, and in the afternoon would serve me at the Dionysus Taverna (Restaurant).
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Mania and Bob Armistead. Mania worked at the Chrystalis Jewelry shop which is owned by Irini Stamataki, daughter of George Stamataki. Mania and Irini were always eager to help me with my pronounciation of Greek words, suggest new words to help widen my Greek vocabulary, and tell me of places which might be of interest to visit. Both were two of the nicest Greek ladies I met while on Crete.
NOTE: Two Greek friends whose photos I failed to have taken with me before I left Crete were Irini Stamataki, owner of the Chrystalis Jewelry Shop, and Emmanuel (Manoli) who was the late afternoon and evening waiter at the Dionysus Taverna (Restaurant). I saw both Irini and Emmanuel almost on a daily basis, and I consider both of them to be good friends of mine.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Chania & Agios Nikolaos (St. Nicholas)


















UPPER LEFT PHOTO: The lighthouse at the harbor in Chania.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Small boy poses with a python around his neck at the harbor in Chania.


















UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Mosque-like architecture at the harbor in Chania.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: The bell and tower at the old Catholic Church near the harbor in Chania.



















UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Interior shot of the old Catholic Church near the harbor in Chania.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Harbor and village of Agios Nikolaos (St. Nicholas, facing northeast)














UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Marina and harbor in the village of Agios Nikolaos (St. Nicholas, facing east and slightly south)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

NEW PHOTOS...ADDITIONAL COMMENTS

Dear Friends,

I have some more photos taken on Crete which I have not yet posted, but I hope to do so within a week or perhaps less. I also intend to post some additional commentaries in the coming days or weeks as well. So...stay tuned...and, as always,

Take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,

Bob (Midget) Armistead

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

SAFELY HOME...WITH JET LAG

Dear Friends,

I apologize for not posting an earlier entry stating that I had made it safely back to the USA and to my home in Tennessee late on the evening of July 31st. But once I had arrived back home, I had to recover from a terrible case of “jet lag”. Now, I don’t know if you are familiar with “jet lag”, but some define it as the physical, psychological, emotional and mental changes that one’s mind and body go through when transported through several time zones over a short period of time – in other words, the body’s time clock is fooled into thinking that it is either much later or much earlier than it really is. When I had completed the last leg of my journey and had landed for the final time, I think that my body had been fooled into believing that it was 1835 or 1836, and Andrew Jackson was President! However, I think that I have come up with a much better definition for “jet lag”. “Jet lag” is simply that condition which mimics the worst case hangover. The symptoms are almost identical: headache, body aches, nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, tiredness, stomach pains, double vision, and the loss of control of various bodily functions. Now, whenever I have had the misfortune to wake up with a hangover, I knew that it was God’s punishment being visited upon me for having consumed too much of a good thing! But with “jet lag” you are being punished for simply having taken a plane ride. Somehow that just doesn’t seem fair to me! So, the next time that I have to take a long flight from one continent to another, prior to boarding the plane I think that I am going to consume a very large quantity of Raki (or its generic equivalent, i.e., Tennessee moonshine) so that when I land at my final destination, I won’t know if my symptoms are a result of a hangover or “jet lag”...nor will I even care!

Take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,

Bob (High Flying, or is that, Flying High?) Armistead

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS BEFORE DEPARTURE

Dear Friends,

Well, early tomorrow morning I will board an Olympic Airways jet out of Heraklion to Athens, and from Athens to New York, and then fly on to Nashville, Tennessee. But, before I leave, I wanted to share a few final thoughts with you.

When I was initially planning my trip to Crete, I had wanted to stay for six months, but because of unrealistic visa requirements, I was unable to obtain a visa for six months, so I had to be content with a three month visit. This trip was to have been my “last hoorah” so to speak. I wanted to return to Crete and to Iraklion Air Station for one final time - for a lengthy stay so that I could get my fill of Crete and of the Air Base...enough to last me for the remainder of my life. But in the course of my stay, I found out something about myself. I can no more get my fill of Crete, than I could go outside and breathe in enough air to last me for the rest of my life! It would be like trying to drink as much water or eat as much food as possible at one sitting with the intent of never wanting food or drink again! It would be like watching one sunrise or one sunset and saying that any more than that would only be redundant. Or, perhaps it would be like hearing the cry of a newborn baby or the giggles of a small child and saying that all additional cries and giggles would only be the same! Or maybe it would be like never wanting to see the smile of a beautiful woman again! No – I didn’t get my fill of Crete! And when I leave tomorrow morning, I will do so with a great deal of reluctance and remorse!

So, what does this all mean? When General Douglas MacArthur was being evacuated from the Philippine Islands, he remarked, “I shall return”. And, later on, he did make a triumphal return to the Philippines. Now, I don’t claim to be a “General MacArthur”, but don’t be too surprised if sometime in the future, you should discover additional entries are being made to this blog in preparation for a return trip to Crete by Bob (Midget) Armistead.

I hope that you have enjoyed my photographs and my written entries on this blog as much as I have enjoyed sharing them with you. And, in the course of my writings, if I have made you smile or laugh, or have provoked your thought-making process, then I will consider this blog to have been a success. From the beginning, I wanted this blog to be both entertaining and informative, and, if I have accomplished one or the other, or both, then I have achieved my objectives.

Take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,
Bob (I Shall Return) Armistead

Sunday, July 20, 2008

INCINERATOR DETAIL

Dear Friends,

Before I began this entry, I must first explain that my blog is being read by more people outside of the United States than inside the USA. Many of these people are from the United Kingdom, Belgium, Israel, Germany, Cyprus, Korea, and other countries as well. Therefore, I feel that a little background information is in order. On Iraklion Air Station at the back of the Operations Building (Security Compound, Compound, Pound), in which I worked, there was an incinerator. Now the incinerator that I photographed on this return trip to Iraklion Air Station is not the same incinerator that was used back in the late sixties and early seventies when I was stationed here. As I recall, the incinerator that we had back then was almost the size of a small room, and was used for the purpose of burning classified documents and information. Ever so often, the incinerator would be shut down and allowed to cool for several hours so that it could be cleaned. Then, a two man team would come in, sift through the ashes that had fallen through the grates of the incinerator to a holding tray below, and then proceed to sweep and clean out the interior of the incinerator. This was not an easy task, nor was it a desirable task, but it was a necessary task. And, it was almost always hot and it was ALWAYS dirty!!! At any rate, “Incinerator Detail” involved removing the tray at the bottom of the incinerator, sifting through those ashes which had fallen through the grate for any bits and pieces of classified information/documents which were not completely burned, and removing those bits and pieces to be burned at a later time. Then, those ashes would be placed in a fifty-five gallon metal drum, mixed with water, and stirred until it was a charcoal-gray mush. Later, someone else would come along and weld a metal lid on top of the drums so that they could be buried at a remote site on base. Anyway, one evening, not long after having arrived on Iraklion Air Station, I, and another airman by the name of Art Williams, had been assigned the task of “Incinerator Detail”. Now, in order to put things into perspective, I was (and still am) a white boy. And Art Williams was a black boy. And, when we started Incinerator Detail” we both were that way – I was white – he was black. But, when incinerator detail was finished, we both were black! Once we had finished sifting through the ashes and removing the bits and pieces of unburned classified material, and placing the ashes in metal drums, we had to climb inside of the incinerator and sweep out its interior. Now, when you sweep out the inside of a soot-filled incinerator, you can’t help but sir up a lot of black soot. And, once the sweeping stops, that soot had to settle somewhere – and that somewhere was on the faces and bodies of those performing “Incinerator Detail”! Before Art and I had climbed into the “belly of the beast”, we had both stripped down to just our T-shirts and fatigue pants. And, when we emerged, it was difficult to say who was who! Art and I were almost the same height (O.K., O.K. he was taller! Damn, everyone was taller than me!). But, with both of us covered from head to foot in black soot, it wasn’t easy to tell the two of us apart. After we had completed “Incinerator Detail”, the Sergeant who was in charge of the detail came by to conduct an inspection of the incinerator to see that it had been properly cleaned, and that any unburned classified material had been properly disposed. We stood before him and he looked at us - from one and then to the other, then he cleared his voice a couple of times, and asked, “Which of you is Armistead, and which of you is Williams?” Because we had both removed our fatigue shirts with our name tags on them, and had left our Top Secret I.D. badges attached to our fatigue shirts, he had no idea who was who, even though he had worked with us for several months. Art and I both began laughing. I said, “I’m Airman Armistead”, and Art said, “I’m Airman Williams”. “Well, O.K., humphhh”, as he cleared his throat again, “It looks like you airmen have done an outstanding job of cleaning the incinerator. I’m giving you boys the rest of the evening off”. Art and I both laughed as we made our way out of the Incinerator Room and to the latrine to wash off our faces. But, I wasn’t quite through yet. As many of you may remember, I was rather fair-skinned with blue-green eyes, and a very light-colored blonde mustache – a mustache that was just a step above from being not more than fuzz (O.K., O.K. It was fuzz!!!) When I went into the latrine, I took a damp paper towel and began to wipe the soot from my face...from my forehead, my nose, my cheeks, my eyes, the sides of my face, my chin...everywhere but my upper lip. It seems that much of the soot that had come to settle on my face from “Incinerator Detail” had come to rest on my blonde mustache – which was no longer blonde – it was black! And, for the first time in my life, you could actually see that I had a mustache!!! I was elated! So, once I had finished washing my face – except for my mustache, I returned to the main floor of the Operations Building just to waltz around and show the other members of “Charlie Flight”, that I really did have a mustache after all!!!

Take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,

Bob (Black Bob) Armistead

Saturday, July 19, 2008

OBJECT LESSONS

Dear Friends,

I have often heard it said that “object lessons” are those lessons which we learn as we travel through life, and whether or not that object lesson has had a positive impact upon our lives, depends entirely upon how we apply it later on in life. I think that I learned many “object lessons” while I was in the Air Force, but none more important than one which I learned while stationed at Iraklion Air Station – one which I have carried with me through life – and one which I shall carry with me until the day I die.

I’m sure that all of us remember “mid-night chow” – that meal served to those who were coming off of a “swing shift” (4 PM until midnight), and those preparing to work a “mid” (midnight until 8 AM). Now, "mid-night" chow was not especially known for its taste, appearance, or even its smell. It was usually known for the inability of those of us eating it to correctly indentify what it was! And, I’m sure that the term “mystery meat” must have originated from some dish which had been concocted specifically for “midnight chow”. At any rate, late one evening, I, along with several other airmen, had gone over to the Airmen’s Dining Hall to partake of “mid-night chow” before reporting for duty in the Compound at midnight. This particular evening, “mid-night chow” was particularly bad. The meal had the appearance of something that might have been picked up by the side of the road, had some vegetables (or weeds) thrown in with it, and baked, cooked, or broiled (or all three), until it had reached a state in which it could not be readily identified except by laboratory analysis! One airman, after having tasted it, simply took his plate, turned it upside down on the dining table and then walked out. Many of us, after having tasted it and concluded that it was unfit for human consumption, devised a game of sorts. Each would pick what looked like a vegetable part, i.e., a pea or kernel of corn, etc., place it on the end of a fork or spoon, and then strike it with the fist as hard as possible to see how high it could be catapulted into the air. If you were able to hit the ceiling of the Dining Hall, you got five points. If you got it to stick to the ceiling, you got ten points. And, yes, I am ashamed to admit it; I was partaking in this game (I hope that my son is not reading this!). But, there was one airman sitting at our table directly across from me who was not playing the game. I mean, he was what we called, “chowing down”. He was leaning over the table with has face about five inches from his plate. He had one of those extremely large spoons – one that almost looked like a small shovel – and with that spoon he was scooping up the food and cramming it into his mouth. He would chew it as quickly as possible and then take another scoopful and shovel it into his mouth, all the while looking as if he savored every bite! I don’t remember his name, but I do remember that he was from the Appalachia region of eastern Kentucky – an economically depressed region – an area of coal mines and abject poverty. I watched for a few moments and then asked him, “Man, how in the world can you eat that crap?” He paused just long enough to look up at me, and said, “Bob, this is the best food that I’ve ever eaten”. And with that having been said, resumed his attack on his plate of “mid-night chow”. Now, when he responded to me, he didn't say it in a hateful way, or in a “smart aleck” way, or in a mean-spirited sort of way; he just said it in a matter-of-fact manner. But, his words cut into my heart deeper than the sharpest knife! At that moment I felt so ashamed and so embarrassed that I had been playing in my food like a child, and wasting food that others would have fought over to eat! At that point, I slowly picked up my fork and began to eat what was left on my plate. I didn’t enjoy it, but I ate everything on my plate until it was clean. Then, I watched as that airman sitting across the table from me went back for second helpings! From that day forward, if the food didn’t look particularly appetizing, I would only ask for just a very small portion – if it was good, I would ask for more – if it tasted bad, I would eat just what was on my plate. But, never again did I waste the food that was put before me. And, even to this day, it troubles me greatly to see food that is wasted, goes uneaten, or is thrown out!

Take care, stay well, and let me hear from you...and eat your vegetables!

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,

Bob (Midget) Armistead

Friday, July 18, 2008

GREEK RULES OF THE ROAD

Dear Friends,

When I first arrived back here on Crete, I decided to study the methodology with which Greek motorists operate their vehicles. It took me a while, but I think that I have finally figured out the Greek Rules of the Road:

(1) If you are making a left-hand turn, honk your horn and then turn left...or right if your prefer.

(2) If you are making a right-hand turn, honk your horn and then turn right...or left if you prefer.

(3) If you are preparing to stop, honk your horn, and then keep going.

(4) If you are backing up, honk your horn until you hit something. If you don’t hit anything, then you have not backed up far enough.

(5) If you are passing someone on a narrow two-lane mountain road, honk your horn as you force them off the road and onto the shoulder (or over the cliff, if applicable).

(6) If you come to an intersection that has a “Stop Sign”, honk your horn and then play “chicken”.

(7) If a pedestrian walks out in front of you, honk your horn. If you feel a sudden thump, then you know that you have added another ornament to the grill of your car.

(8) If a dog or cat runs in front of you, honk your horn. Then, pick up the fresh road kill, take it home, and make souvlaki.

(9) If your car’s engine should stall in heavy traffic, honk your horn incessantly. This will make the cars behind you think the fellow in front of you is holding up the traffic.

(10) If you have been drinking, it is alright to go ahead and drive your vehicle. Just make sure that you take along a “Designated Honker”.

(11) If you should happen to see an attractive young woman walking along the sidewalk, honk your horn at her.

(12) If you should happen to see an ugly woman walking along the sidewalk, honk your horn at her as a warning.

(13) And lastly, if your horn is broken, under NO circumstances should you attempt to operate your vehicle – it is unsafe!

Take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,
Bob (DareDevil) Armistead

Thursday, July 17, 2008

VILLAGE OF AROLITHOS & A GREEK WEDDING

Dear Friends,

Late in the afternoon of Saturday, July 5th, I traveled to Arolithos, a re-created traditional Greek village about twenty minutes from the little seaside village of Amoudara where I have been staying. The word, “arolithos”, in Greek, refers to an indentation in a rock which catches and holds rainwater. The purpose of the village of Arolithos is to collect and preserve the traditional folklore elements of Crete. The little village is situated on a mountainside overlooking the valley below. In addition to winding streets and small shops which sell traditional Greek jewelry and other souvenirs, there is a Church, a bakery, a metal working shop, a weaving loom, as well as a bar, a small cafĂ©, a taverna, and a couple of large restaurants. There are also many small apartments that can be rented, either by the day or by the week. And, for the overnight guests, there is even a swimming pool which is perched on the edge of the mountain and has a spectacular view of the valley below.

After arriving there, naturally I wanted to take off and explore the village for myself. I walked through the narrow twisting, winding streets, sometimes only to find myself back at a point where I had already been, or else so turned around that I wasn’t exactly sure how to get back. By now it had already become early evening and many of the shops had begun to close, so I decided to see about some supper. When I asked at the taverna, the lady informed me that the restaurants did not begin serving until 8:00 P.M. So, I decided to go into the bar and have a nice cold drink. I took my drink out from the bar and sat outside at a benched table which also overlooked the valley below. It was one of those beautiful sights that only come along once every hundred years or so, so it was no surprise to me when I felt as if I could spend the next one-hundred years or so just enjoying the view, the low humidity and the gentle mountain breeze.

After I had finished my drink, I casually walked over to the larger of the two restaurants. It was a gorgeous setting for a restaurant: Outside, with trees and overhead grapevines providing plenty of shade for the seating area and with a floor made from large, smooth stones. It had a very rustic appearance but with a touch of elegance. There was also a very small Greek Orthodox Church located not more than seventy feet from the dining area. When I arrived I was informed they were preparing for a wedding and a feast to follow. Now, folks, when I say they were preparing for a wedding and a feast, I’m not talking about some small affair - I would say there was seating for no less than six hundred guests! I asked one of the waiters if there was any seating available for someone who was neither a member of the wedding party nor a guest. He showed me to a row of tables which were situated on a slightly elevated rock and stone ledge overlooking the main dining area where the wedding and feast were to be held. I had the perfect view! It wasn’t long before the wedding guests began to arrive. Many seated themselves at the dining tables, and others just talked or milled about, almost as if they were anxiously awaiting the arrival of a rock star or celebrity...and they were – for this night belonged to the Bride and Groom – and they were the celebrities! Out of my sight, there were wide candlelit stone steps that led to the dining area. When I heard applause coming from that direction, I knew the Bride and Groom were approaching. As they got nearer, the applause grew louder, almost as if it were a wave heralding their arrival. When they walked into the dining area, those who had been seated rose to their feet, and those who had been milling about and talking, turned toward the Bride and Groom and all began to applaud. The young couple walked past their guests nodding and bowing politely as they made their way to the little Church adjacent to the dining area. The Bride and Groom and the immediate wedding party stood outside the small Church before an alter. I counted no less than five Greek Church officials (I’m not sure what to call them – Priests, Bishops?). Some were wearing headpieces that were significantly larger and taller than what the others were wearing (I am not sure if this indicated a higher ranking in the Church hierarchy or not). There was a microphone and public address system set up which allowed all of those in attendance to hear the wedding ceremony as it was being performed. The ceremony itself must have taken about thirty minutes or so. After the wedding rites had been completed, there was a cheer and additional applause from the entire crowd of well-wishers, including myself. The newly married couple made their way through the crowd of family and friends toward the stage where the musicians were seated. After cutting the traditional wedding cake on stage, and each feeding a piece to the other, the Bride and Groom took center stage and enjoyed their first dance together as Husband and Wife. Then...the festivities really began! The waiters and servers brought out tray after tray of legs of roasted lamb, roasted pig, souvlaki, shish-kabobs, assorted platters of cooked and raw vegetables, mountains of freshly baked bread...and the wine – oh, the wine, was brought out by the case, and the bottles distributed on each table not more than two feet apart. Then additional cases of wine were placed at each end of each table, so as to be readily accessible by the servers to be placed before the guests! The musicians began to play lively Greek/Cretan folk music on traditional Greek instruments such as the bouzouki and the lyre. Then, the highlight and grande finale of the evening’s entertainment was a troupe of Greek folk dancers, all attired in the traditional Greek folk costumes, replete with high leather boots, sashes, headwear, and silver-gilded daggers hanging from the men’s sides! At certain points in the dance, the men would leap high into the air and slap the soles of their boots in mid-air which were drawn up behind their backs, and then land flat-footed on the stage – all without missing a step! It was wonderful! But, what impressed me most of all about these Greek folk dancers was their age. All appeared to be in their early or mid-twenties. This told me that many of the Greek folk dances, music and songs were safe for now, and were being passed along to another generation, and that the wonderful treasure that is Cretan culture and customs is being preserved by these wonderful young people! As I left the wedding celebration sometime after midnight, I passed an elderly, white-haired gentleman sitting all alone in a straight-back wooden chair, leaning forward with his head buried in his hands. He was weeping. I didn’t know if this was the Bride’s father crying because he had lost his daughter, or crying because he had just been handed the bill for the night’s festivities! Geisou!!!

Take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,

Bob (Midget) Armistead














UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Architecture in the Village of Arolithos.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Architecture in the Village of Arolithos.











UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Street scene in the Village of Arolithos.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Street scene in the Village of Arolithos.










UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Apartment in Arolithos: A contrast of light, shape, shadow and color.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: View from Village of Arolithos of the valley below.










UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Little Church adjacent to the restaurant in the Village of Arolithos.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: The Bride & Groom recite wedding vows outside the Church in the Village of Arolithos.











UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Greek folk dancers perform in Village of Arolithos.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Greek folk dancers perform in Arolithos.










UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Greek folk dancers perform in Village of Arolithos.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Greek folk dancers perform in Arolithos.












UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Greek folk dancers perform in Village of Arolithos.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: The Bride (R), the Bride's sister (C), and a well-wisher (L).










UPPER LEFT PHOTO: The Bride in the Village of Arolithos.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Bob Armistead at the Greek wedding in the Village of Arolithos.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

EARTHQUAKE!!!

Dear Friends,
This will just be a very quick post. I was suddenly awakened this morning, just before 6:30 AM local time by an earthquake! I don't now how severe it was, or if there are any reports of damage or injury. I also don't know where it was centered or how far it was from Crete. But, it felt like it was centered directly beneath my bed!!! What a rude awakening! The quake seemed to last for at least twenty seconds or so, but a twenty second earthquake seems like an eternity. You keep asking yourself, "When is it going to stop?" My first and immediate concern was if there might be a tsunami that would follow later. The quake happened less than an hour ago.
Right now, I am preparing to leave by bus for Chania. If there are reports of damage or injuries, I will try to update this posting when I return from Chania this evening, if I don't get back too late. Farewell.
UPDATE: I have just now returned from this morning's trip to the city of Chania, about a three hour bus ride to the west of Iraklion. According to some reports issued in Israel, this morning's earthquake measured a 6.8 on the Richter scale. According to information which I was able to garner here, damage was minimul and mostly isolated to a few cracked walls and broken dishes. I will have to say that the most unusual aspect of the earthquake was the immediate aftermath: utter stillness and quiet. The only sound was of a rooster crowing off in the distance...and Church bells ringing! My first thought was, "How did the Greek priests get to the churches so quickly to ring out a warning?" Then it suddenly occurred to me that the reason for the Church bells ringing was because the eqrthquake had caused the bell towers to sway back and forth, causing the bells to ring out the warning on their on!
Also, I would just like to add, that, while the top of this post says, "Monday, July 14, 2008", it should have read "Tuesday, July 15, 2008". I still have the time/date on my computer set to Central Standard Time in the USA, so that is the reason for the date discrepancy. Thanks.
I'll close for now...for some reason, Jerry Lee Lewis' song, "WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN' GOIN' ON", keeps ringing in my mind!
Take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.
Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",
Bob (Quakin' & Shakin') Armistead

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A TRIBUTE TO GREEK BREAD

Dear Friends,

I am quite sure that enough has been written about Greek food to fill countless libraries around the world. And, while I definitely do not consider myself to be a conniseur of Greek food, I would like to address one particularly important component of the Greek diet: bread – homemade Greek bread to be more exact. When Alexander the Great was marching his armies across the vast regions of the world, conquering distant countries and staking out new claims for the Greek Empire, the most staple food with which he fed his armies was bread. Yes...lowly bread. It was said that his bakers fashioned bread into round loaves with holes in the center of them – almost making them appear like very large donuts. Then wooden poles would be inserted through the holes in the bread, and hoisted onto the shoulders of slaves and carried to the next camp, or on to the next campaign. Two men could carry perhaps close to one hundred loaves of bread or more in this manner. So, while Greek bread may have had lowly and simple origins, it also helped to fashion the ancient Greek Empire.

When talking about Greek bread, I cannot escape comparing it to American bread. American bread is prepared, pre-sliced, pre-packaged, sometimes pre-cinnamonized, sometimes pre-raisinized, sometimes pre-butterized, and then weighed, battered, whipped, and baked, along with millions of other loafs of bread so that when they emerge from the ovens, they all look like millions of little clones. Each loaf looking exactly like the next loaf...no holes, no lumps, all weighing the same, same conformed size, textured the same, same color, and then placed by machines into the same type of plastic wrapping...same everything, and, all the while, untouched by human hands. The only thing that we Americans don’t have “pre-done” to our bread before we eat it...is to have it pre-eaten. But, who knows, perhaps that will be next step in the evolution of American bread!

Greek bread, on the other hand, is different. It isn’t “pre-anything”. Each loaf is different – each has its own character - its own personality – its own distinction. Some may be a little larger, some a little smaller. Some have more flour added that is evident by the white residue on the bottom-side of the loaf after baking. Some are a little more browned than others. Some are a little longer, some a little shorter. They might range in size from twelve or thirteen inches to fifteen inches or more in length. And, they have all been handled by people – but not your ordinary people like the ones who work in American bakeries. These are people who hand-mix the batter, hand-knead the dough, and hand-bake the bread in large stone ovens, just like they have been doing for thousands of years – ever since the time of Alexander the Great, and before! And, when you go into the market, the bread is stacked up like cord wood...all in the open air – no wrapping and no packaging. And, when you pay the market owner, he takes the bare bread out of your bare hands and with his bare hands places it in a little bag – and you don’t have any idea where his bare hands have been in the last thirty minutes! But, the one factor this bread all has in common is...it is all good. Now, I am not a big bread eater...never have been. But, since I have been here on Crete, I have probably averaged eating close to a loaf of Greek bread every day and a half or less. I eat it with my Greek salads that I fix every day in my little apartment. And, when I reach the bottom of my salad bowl, I use the bread to sop up the remaining olive oil and vinegar.

But, the best thing that I like about Greek bread is that it is a man’s bread. Yes, that’s what I said...a man’s bread! Greek bread wasn’t made for wimps or guys who wear $300 designer jeans, pointy shoes, or pink embroidered shirts! It was made for men who work hard, who come home with dirty hands, and who are not faint of heart! Even the way that Greek bread is eaten requires a man to handle it! In order to enjoy Greek bread, one first has to grasp the loaf with firmness in the left hand, then tuck it tightly between the left forearm and the left side of the body. Then, one has to reach around with the right hand, grasp the end of the loaf of bread and rip off a chunk of bread. Notice, I didn’t say “tear” and I didn’t say “piece”. You don’t slice it, cut it or treat it nice. You “RIP” off a “CHUNK” of the bread. And, when you eat it, you don’t bite into it with your front teeth. If you do, when you pull the bread away from your mouth, you may discover a couple of your teeth still clinging to the bread. No - you have to bite into the bread with those teeth at the side of your mouth, and then twist the bread from side to side until a part of it comes off in your mouth. Next, you chew – the crust may be a little tough, but once you have pierced the crust, and the flavor and the soft texture of the bread come through, you know that it has all been well worth the effort! Remember: The prize is not in the race – it is at the finish line!

If you’ll excuse me now, I’m getting a little hungry. I think I’ll go have a snack of feta cheese, a glass of wine and...a chunk of Greek bread. Bon appetite!

Take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,

Bob (Midget) Armistead

Friday, July 11, 2008

THE FRENCHMAN AND THE BITCH

Dear Friends,
Now, before you decide that you are not going to read any more of my entries based upon the title of this post, let me just share a few words with you. Not everything is as it first appears – not what we read, and certainly not what we hear. If you will read this post in its entirety, I am sure that when you reach the end of this entry, you will agree with me.
Since my arrival on Crete the first week in May, I have had the very distinct pleasure of meeting some of the most wonderful and interesting people of my life. I have met and made friends with people from England, Ireland, Wales, France, Germany, Greece, and the USA. One of those whom I met was a young Frenchman named Pierre. Pierre was a twenty year old native of France who was on Crete working on a co-operative project in the field of engineering with the university here. He was one of the most pleasant young men that I have ever met...intelligent, polite, neat looking, short-cropped blonde hair that was prematurely disappearing, soft-spoken, and a warm smile that he was eager to share with everyone. He spoke English well, but had a rather distinct French accent, which, at times, made it a little difficult to understand. Never-the-less, Pierre had a wide English vocabulary, and always expressed a strong desire to learn even more English words.
I first met Pierre at the bus stop in Amoudara while I was waiting to go into Iraklion. He was there with two American girls who were here on Crete also doing a college co-operative. When I heard them speaking English, I couldn’t resist asking them where they were from. The girls, Sabryna and Roxy, told me they were from the USA - attending college in Philadelphia, and Pierre told me he was from France. We talked from then until the bus arrived to pick us up, and then continued our conversation until we all got off the bus in downtown Iraklion. We became good friends, and soon afterwards would often have dinner together at one of the local restaurants, or at the apartment of Sabryna and Roxy.
One afternoon, just after I had left my apartment building and was walking across the street to the Marirena Hotel to get online, I heard Pierre’s familiar voice calling to me from the direction of the LaStella Apartments where he lived, just a short distance from the beach. “Bob-eeee,” he called, “Bob-eeee.” I turned to see Pierre with a few of his friends. I began walking toward them. “Bob-eeee, weee are all going down to lay on the bitch. Would you like to lay on the bitch with us?” he asked. At first I thought that I still had water in my ears from that morning’s shower. “Say what, Pierre?” I asked. “We are all going to lay on the bitch together. Would you like to lay on the bitch, too?” he asked. “Uhhh, all of you are gonna lay on the same bitch at the same time?” I stammered. “Yes, it is a very large bitch, Bob-eeee,” Pierre responded. “Well, I don’t think that I want to join in...but do you suppose I could just watch?” I asked with a smile. Pierre looked a little puzzled, and then said, “Of course you can watch...but that is strange, Bob-eeee.” “I’m strange?” I thought to myself. “Tell me this, Pierre. Just where is this bitch?” I asked. “Oh, Bob-eeee, you know where the bitch is. The bitch is at the end of this road. You know...where the water meets the sand, Bob-eeee,...the bitch,” Pierre replied. Have you ever had an epiphany - a moment in your life when you had a sudden revelation...an awakening...when all of the pieces of the puzzle just seemed to drop into place? That is what I had at that instant. I suddenly realized that Pierre was talking about the “beach” and not the “bitch”. I tried not to laugh, but I just couldn’t help myself. I began to laugh out loud...the harder I tried not to laugh, the harder I did laugh. Pierre looked at me, somewhat confused. “Bob-eeee, do you always laugh when you lay on the bitch?” Pierre asked. At that point I stopped laughing, looked at Pierre and said, “No, Pierre. I don’t ever laugh when I lay on the bitch...never!”
I told you, not all things are as they appear...nor as they sound. And, just remember: “Life’s a...beach”!!! Take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.
Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,
Bob (Midget) Armistead

THE CROSS ON THE HILL

Dear Friends,

After having taken the last of the photos of Iraklion Air Station, I proceeded walking west down Main Street on the Base. I happened to look upward and off in the distance I saw the “Cross on the Hill”. This Cross, made from large metal pipes, had been constructed and placed on that hill by members of the Base Chapel, and was there in 1968 when I arrived on Iraklion Air Station. The Cross was still as white as ever and stood out remarkably well against the backdrop of the azure Cretan sky. It seemed to me that the Cross was maintaining a silent, solitary, and lonely vigil over the Base...as if it were keeping watch until better times come along. I have always believed that the Cross is a sign of Hope and Re-Birth, and, that being the case, perhaps one day...just maybe...we might see Iraklion Air Station re-born and the Greek and American flags once again flying side by side on Iraklion Air Station. I raised my camera and took one final photograph...of the “Cross on the Hill”.


I hope that you have enjoyed the photos of Iraklion Air Station, and that they have evoked pleasant memories for you. Please feel free to copy any of the photos that you would like, and use them as you see fit. The only request that I would make is that the photos not be used for profit or personal gain, that I be given credit for having taken the photographs, and most importantly, that the photos not be used or displayed in a manner that would be demeaning or bring discredit to the U.S. Air Force, Iraklion Air Station, or the men and women who so proudly served there. Thanks.

As always, take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,

Bob (Midget) Armistead

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

THE OPERATIONS BUILDING RE-VISITED

NOTE: Whether you knew it as the Operations Building, the Security Compound, the Compound, or simply the Pound, whatever you called it, this was the center-piece of Iraklion Air Station. The work carried out in the Operations Building was the primary purpose and focus of the mission of the 6931st. Security Group and Iraklion Air Station.








UPPER LEFT PHOTO: The Operations Building (the Security Compound, the Compound, the Pound) - Bldg. #406.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: The Guard shack. We picked up our Top Secret I.D. badges here before proceeding on to the Compound.









UPPER LEFT PHOTO: The Guard shack. We picked up our Top Secret I.D. badges here before proceeding on to the Compound.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: The antenna field as seen after having passed through the Guard shack.












UPPER LEFT PHOTO: The southwest corner of the Operations Building - Bldg. #406.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Northeast side of the Operations Building - Bldg. #406. the "old" entrance was just left of center. It has now been sealed shut.









UPPER LEFT PHOTO: The hallway in the Operations Building leading to the main operations room - Bldg. #406.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: The Comm Center - This was on the right side of the hallway before going into the main operations room in the Compound - Bldg. #406.









UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Facing southwest in the main operations room in the compound. The Com Center was just on the other side of the wall to the right.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Facing south in the main operations room in the Compound - Bldg. #406.









UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Facing southwest in the main operations room in the Compound - Bldg. #406.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Facing northwest in the main operations room in the Compound - Bldg. #406.









UPPER LEFT PHOTO: The Engineering Manager's room was located just off the northwest wall of the main operations room - Bldg. #406.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: I think this room was located off of the southwest corridor of the Compound - It must have been the computer room. Bldg. #406.












UPPER LEFT PHOTO: The "new" incinerator. This was where classified documents were burned - Bldg. #406.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: The "new" incinerator. This was where classified documents - Bldg. #406.








UPPER LEFT PHOTO: This northeast entrance may have replaced the "old" entrance to the Compound used in the 60's & 70's. Bldg. #406.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: This northwest entrance may have replaced the "old" entrance to the Compound used in the 60's & 70's. Bldg. #406.









UPPER LEFT PHOTO: The antenna field as seen from the road to the Base Beach. Tropo can be seen in the distant background.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

IRAKLION AIR STATION: A WALKING TOUR: PART THREE









UPPER LEFT PHOTO: West entrance to the Airmens' Club - Bldg. #125.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Northeast corner of Airmens' Club - Bldg. #125.














UPPER LEFT PHOTO: East end of Airmens' Club - Bldg. #125
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: South side of the "new" Bowling Center - Bldg. #127.











UPPER LEFT PHOTO: East side of the NCO Club - Bldg. #131.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: East end of the Dag Hammarskjold Base Theater - Bldg. #115.












UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Interior of the Dag Hammarskjold Base Theater - Bldg. #115.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Interior of the Dag Hammarskjod Base Theater - Bldg. #115 - As seen from the projection room upstairs.











UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Officer's Club - Bldg. #210, and the Class Six Store.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: "SHOPETTE" - Bldg. #212 - Was this the Base Commissary?












UPPER LEFT PHOTO: West side of Bldg. #216. What was this building?
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: East end of the Base Post Office - Bldg. #219.











UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Interior of the Base Post Office - Bldg. #219 - Post Office Box section.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Interior of the Bast Post Office - Bldg. #219 - Looking from the service counter.











UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Bldg. #108 - What was this building?
UPPPER RIGHT PHOTO: The base tennis courts.










UPPER LEFT PHOTO: The base tennis courts.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: West end of the "old" Bowling Alley - Bldg. #217.











UPPER LEFT PHOTO: The Base Auto Hobby Shop & the Base Wood Hobby Shop - Bldg. #152.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Unknown building to the left (south) of the Auto & Wood Hobby Shops. What was this building?









UPPER LEFT PHOTO: The last Shuttle Bus stop before leaving Iraklion Air Station. Look at the sign to the left of the bus shelter.