| May 25, 2005
The Road To and From Miami
Being independent and thus working with a variety of companies,
often finds me doing a variety of things. And in that variety
of things, many turn out to be very fun and life enhancing
experiences. It is one of the pleasures and privileges of
working in the media.
So this week found me in Miami, flying down Monday to spend
that afternoon, Tuesday and Wednesday morning with the U.S.
Coast Guard stationed in Miami. I am working with WETA, the
PBS station in Washington, D.C. and Leo Eaton, head of Eaton
Creative, a DC area production company. Were investigating
whether or not we can find enough stories out of the Miami
base and the individuals associated with this base, that we
can produce and sell a documentary, multi-episode to a network.
In the couple of days I was there, I wandered the base, went
over a 110 [a Coast Guard Cutter that is 110 feet long], went
out on a small boat on a patrol, listened to the stories of
interesting individuals and got to watch at relatively close
hand some of the workings of the Coast Guard.
It is not a military organization in that it does not report
into the DOD [Department of Defense]. It is part of Homeland
Security, a change post 9/11 from the Department of Treasury.
But in every way that seems military to me, it is a military
group. I watched a 65 fly over us, piloted by
an extraordinary young woman, Lt. Liz Booker, who has utilized
the Coast Guard as a method of overcoming youthful rebellion
and to become the one thing she wanted to be, a pilot
and she is a damn good one from all the reports I heard.
I met another young woman, Petty Officer Bartlett, who works
in Public Affairs and moonlights as a rock singer. One of
the bands she sings with is made up of Coast Guarders. Its
called Drowning Oscar, Oscar being the name of
the dummy used by the Coast Guard in their life training exercises.
I got to see one, all crumpled up in a storage locker.
Our guide for part of all of this was Lt. Tony Russell, who
has been Public Affairs Officer in Miami and is headed this
transfer season for the Nantucket, a 110, where
he will be C.O. and will fulfill what he is sure will be one
of the highlights of his career, commanding one of these impossibly
small and necessary ships which work to intercept drugs, illegal
immigrants and to head off the potential Trojan Horse of our
new age, the sum of all fears, a nuke in a box.
[New York Times, May 25, 2005, p.A12] brought into the U.S.
via a small boat out of an unregulated port.
Running up the Miami River, lined with boats that could only
be described as tramp steamers, you understand
the complexity of the problem. In addition to all the huge
container ships, there are hundreds upon hundreds of tramp
steamers coming up from Latin America and the Caribbean carrying
cargo into this country and carting out what we have thrown
away old cars, old mattresses, old appliances. They
are junk here in the U.S. but imminently valuable in poor
My respect for these men and women is tremendous; I must
confess that before I began exploring their world I hardly
knew what they did. But having touched it, I cannot ever forget
Seaman Rivera talked animatedly and with huge pride, as did
a number of other seamen, about the pride they feel when they
carry out a successful SAR [Search and Rescue] operation.
And listening to them, I was appalled by the number of people
who abuse the Coast Guard, calling for help when they dont
need it a case last week of SAR really turned out to
be some fishermen who didnt want to quit fishing when
one of their company was overwhelmed by seasickness!
We are a coastal country; these men and women are charged
with helping protect us and to save us when we run
into trouble, either legitimately or through common idiocy.
God love em.