In which Jack makes a pilgrimage to Fred's Place!
by Jack Eckert
With apologies to my many Muslim friends
Each Moslem is duty bound to make a pilgrimage to Mecca once in his or her life. This is called making one's Hajj.
Over the last few years Fred's Place located in Bartow, Florida has become the symbolic Mecca for Coast Guardsmen, Old Guard and New. I found myself less then 40 miles away from Bartow on January 14, 1999 and that is when I made my Hadj.
I had contacted Fred by email in December and asked him if he would be home to me and he replied in the affirmative. My wife being otherwise committed (working and I wanted to get out of there lest I be commandeered into working too) I assured myself Fred was home and I drove down to see him.
Fred Siegel and I had been stationed at many of the same units during different time periods, CGC Fred Lee, Groton Training Station, CGC Cook Inlet to name a few. We swapped a few stories about what they were like in our respective era's. It was good to talk face to face with somebody who had lived a similar life to mine. Many memories were conjured up.
Fred's background was that of a Radioman who advanced to CWO while mine was that of an Engineman who advanced to Commissioned Officer. Nevertheless we were on common ground.
He is a big guy with a pair of wire rims that sit askew on his nose. I was amazed when I found out that he has a physical limitation that forces him to type with one hand but that one hand can sure move across the keys.
We talked at length about Fred's Place, the web site and how it evolved. I was quite surprised when he told me that he doesn't use Front Page or something like that but uses note pad and writes his code as he goes along. He has a mastery of Unix which certainly shows through in the organization of his pages.
His whole operation takes place in a small, comfortable room in his house where the computer shares the space with a TV. The computer area is neat as a pin with no unnecessary clutter around (unlike that of the authors which looks like a tornado recently passed through.)
He has a rare insight into the machinations of the "New Guard" which I don't have. He feels that they work harder than we ever did in the old days. So much of our world was Weather Ships, mostly in Northern ports operating for years on end with a month in and a month out more or less. Today's larger cutters are in Southern ports where they are out for weeks at a time and in only for very short periods. The missions have changed drastically along with the uniforms. I had never considered the new life to be tougher. He may be right.
After a short four hours I left Fred to return to Haines City. On my way out I thanked Fred for his time and jokingly remarked that I had made my "Hajj." We parted ways probably to never again see each other but wished each other well.
By the way, for some reason or other he managed to attract a very lovely wife. There must be something to this guy.
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