A Calculated Conspiracy

By David and Nancy Beckwith

        Will and Betsy Black move to the Florida Keys where they take new jobs in the local financial industry. This delightful book highlights the history as well as the lifestyle unique to the Florida Keys. Our heroes become involved with homicides resulting from shady real estate deals designed to cheat investors. Their financial expertise and common sense keep them from becoming victims, but not their neighbors and business associates. Along the way, they deal with New Jersey hoods and members of a Colombian cartel. While the book was entertaining, it wasn’t a great “who done it,” because the book wasn’t written to leave clues for the reader to solve the case. But what I especially enjoyed about this book is it serves as a primer on how many real estate and investment schemes work. Another interesting delight of this novel is it will make the readers want to live and work in the Keys.


There is a series on Netflix called Tiding up with Marie Kondo. It’s about how this one woman from Japan helps people get rid of the clutter in their lives. I started watching it, and found many of her tips useful. Naturally, I started going through all of the stuff I have collected over the years.

But there were two surprises. The first was finding the letters I had written to my mother when I was on active duty in the Marine Corps. She had saved them all. The second was finding the letters and postcards I had sent to my Aunt Louise when I was living and working in Japan.

What this proved to me is many people enjoy real letters. Of course email is good, but nothing replaces the joy a person feels when that individual opens his or her mailbox and finds a letter or card. I’m one of those people who believe you should send real Christmas cards, not email messages. A birthday card in the mail makes the person feel special, not like you are sending a message to let the person know you remembered his or her birthday. For those who are on my mailing list, they know I write a couple of letters each year and mail them out. When I meet up with them at reunions or on vacation, they always tell me how much they enjoy getting my letters. I had two relatives in assisted care facilities, and getting a letter or postcard made their day.

So my take away for this message is write a letter or send a card. Snail mail is a great morale boost, especially for military personnel serving overseas. Make someone feel special. A stamp is a small price to pay for the happiness you will bring to others.

Writing Letters

“Writers write.” I know this is a quote from the movie Throw Mama From the Train starring Danny DeVito and Billy Crystal. But I agree with the statement, writers do need to write, whether it is a journal, articles, working on a novel, or writing letters.

I believe in writing letters for several reasons. First, it’s good practice and something that every writer can do. It makes you to write sentences and paragraphs. It makes you express yourself in greater detail. The best thing is it forces you to take notice of the details in your life. Too many times we ask what happened yesterday or last weekend, and the answer we get back is “nothing.” Writing letters makes you take notice of the little changes in your life. For example, does your pet demand more attention for playtime? What about that shopping trip last weekend where you were so bored while your significant other was so excited about shopping for something. Then there is the party at a bar or some other social gathering that was a total bust – it was so boring. In short, you begin to notice what is happening in your life.

Another reason for writing is it helps you stay in touch with people in your life. Letters have helped me stay in touch with people from high school and from others when I was on active duty, both of these took place more than 30 years ago. To make a friend, you need to be a friend. And friends stay in touch.

Also, it is a historical record. I came across letters I wrote to my mother when I was in the Marine Corps. They reminded me of things I had long forgotten. I wrote lots of letters when I was living in Japan. These are a record of my adventures over there. Think about it—much of what we know about life hundreds of years ago comes from letters. Letters have outlasted all of our computer technology. Remember the first floppy disks, which gave way to smaller disks, which now have been replaced with memory sticks. We can’t access floppy disks any longer, but the letters written years ago are still available.

However, my big reason for writing is I know how much the person receiving the letter appreciate the mail. In the military nowadays, everyone has a mailbox. But when I was on active duty, nothing improved your morale like getting a letter from someone. My wife loves it when I send her a card through the mail. Of course she likes the card, but she loves getting something in the mail. It makes her feel special.

Furthermore, there is no excuse for not writing. With computers and the word processing programs, it is so easy to write. Many times the programs even correct your mistakes, which help with the grammar. While many may opt to use email, which I can understand, email still doesn’t replace the feel of real paper in one’s hand. But computers do give a person a chance to write more often and reach more people. Still I feel an email letter will never replace the smile snail mail brings to someone.

Mama Bear Takes on the Marines!
War games are designed for Marines to deal with bombs, bullets, and bayonets. But when it comes to wildlife, well that requires different tactics.
We were attached to the headquarters regiment, 800 Marines setting up everything needed to wage a five-day war against the Blue Force. We had strung up the nettings to camouflage the tents and communications network. We had set up roadblocks and listening posts. Furthermore, we had 200 Marines digging in to form a perimeter around the camp; a ring of protection designed to alert us at the first sign of danger.
My fellow Staff NCO, David, and I were inspecting the preparations, ensuring everything was going okay. As we came out of the communications tent, which was more than 150 feet inside the perimeter, we came face-to-face with our adversary.
David jumped back and slapped me on the arm. He pointed to something behind me. I turned and saw them.
Less than 20 feet from me was a mother bear with her two cubs. I took one look and stopped. “They’re so cute,” was my comment.
David leaned over to quietly say, “You do know they are dangerous, don’t you?”
Strangely enough, until he said that, I wasn’t afraid of the creatures, who obviously looking for food and had no fear of people. David and I courageously decided to back away from the bears. This must have spooked them because the cubs immediately climbed a nearby tree, and the mother roared.
At this time, several other Marines finally noticed the three bears in the midst of our camp. Many of them started shouting, alerting the entire camp of the intruders. This must have annoyed the bears, which now felt it was time to leave. The cubs came down from the tree and the three of them began to slowly walk towards the perimeter of the camp. Of course, they stopped at several of the tents along the way to check them out. The bears went into the tents, and the Marines came running out.
We now became organized and went on the offensive. Within minutes, there were dozens of Marines shouting, waving arms, and making noise in an effort to drive the bears out of camp. The mother bear would turn around and look at us. She gave us a look which seemed to say switch to decaf and calm down, we’re leaving.
One Marine saw this as an opportunity to get some pictures of the wildlife. The three bears courteously sat down and posed for the pictures. They were quickly becoming celebrities and took several more opportunities to stop and pose while we continued to shout and wave their arms.
The bears continued to stroll towards the perimeter and the Marines dug into foxholes and defensive positions. Two Marines saw the bear and jumped out of their foxhole, which the bears immediately took over. Several of the other Marines on watch decided to open fire and shoot at the bears. Because these were war games, everyone had blanks. They were able to make noise, but that was all. The bears came out of the foxhole and sat down, amuse by the nonfatal assault of noise and confusion. They seemed perfectly content to watch the battle, unaware they were the enemy.
The bears ambled over to another foxhole. They went in and the Marines jumped out. One staff NCO noticed the Marines didn’t have their rifles. When he asked them where their weapons were, one Marine responded. “The bear’s got them and I’m not going back in to get them.” A minute later, the bears came out, leaving the Marines’ rifles behind.
Now, several of the cooks, armed with empty pots and ladles, came to reinforce the frontline troops. They started banging on their pots with their ladles. This time, the bears got up and started to run away.
I was standing there amused that these bears posed for pictures and braved Marines armed with weapons, but ran from the cooks. Strange to think our greatest weapon against this threat was Marine Corps chow.