Monday, August 31, 2020

Review of Charlie Robertson’s “Suspicious Ministry” CD Album

The Song

Written by Robert A. Waters

Music at its core is this: somebody writes a song. It can be for personal reasons, for regret or joy, love or hate. Or it can be solely for filthy lucre. Whatever the reason, music that touches a listener’s heart will last.

For instance, John Newton’s song, “Amazing Grace,” was written with almost debilitating shame for his past sins. For years, Newton had been captain of a slave ship. He bought and sold humans like they were loaves of bread. Then he converted to Christianity. Newton repented and was amazed that God could save a “wretch” like him. In only a few short verses, the former seller of souls revealed to millions of sinners that there’s hope of redemption.

Some songs sell millions. Others, regardless of merit, make little impact on the commercial market. That doesn’t make them any less compelling.

My friend Charlie Robertson is one of the finest song-writers in America. He’s well-known in his hometown of St. Augustine, Florida, and loved by music aficionados elsewhere, but unknown on the hit parade. You see, Charlie did it “his way.” He wrote the kind of music he wanted to write, not pop songs, not commercial songs. With a degree from the University of Florida in journalism, he worked most of his life in a factory making car parts for Nissan. He played various venues, such as bars or music festivals and recorded four CDs, each containing 12 original songs. He developed enough of a following that he has avid fans scattered across the country.

Charlie has opened shows and shared billings with Townes Van Zandt, Jimmy Buffett, Michael Smith, Steve Martin, Tom Paxton, Odetta, Taj Mahal, Steve Goodman, Guy Clark, Waylon Jennings, Doc and Merle Watson, The Newgrass Revival, and Roy Bookbinder. He was part of the Gamble Rogers Florida Folk Revue, which included Will McLean, Paul Champion, Jim Ballew, Teri DiSario, Elizabeth Corrigan and Bob Patterson.

Several songs on his most recent CD album, “Suspicious Ministry,” are autobiographical. In “Guard Duty 1969,” Charlie writes about his experiences in the army after being drafted. Most of his two years were spent as a clerk at Fort Riley, Kansas. Vietnam and Florida were far away from the Midwest icebox where he performed nightly guard duty. Like many veterans, he questions whether his service to his country really made a difference. In “White Nurse,” he writes about his childhood when his mother worked as head night nurse at Mary Lawson’s Hospital in Palatka, Florida. Most of the patients were black and looked on the kindly white nurse who ministered to them as an “angel.” The detailed descriptions of 1950s Florida struck true to a native like me.

The song I like best from Charlie’s new CD is called “That Old Fool.” Nashville is where country singers go to sink or swim. For everyone who finds a safe and prosperous harbor, there are thousands, perhaps millions, who capsize. The protagonist in this song plays at a dive bar for tips. He’s been in prison, his wife left him for a “greasy loan shark,” and he knows that the hearts of country music execs are “bar codes.”

If you long for something other than the putrid pop country or pop rock that’s fashionable today, check out Charlie Robertson.

That Old Fool

Written by Charlie Robertson

He was leaning up against a brick wall

Drinking beer straight from the keg.

He played an old Gibson J-50,

He had an orange prosthetic leg.

Two feet above his head

There was a “come to Jesus” scene,

It was the Raiders against the Chargers

On a 52-inch screen.


He played songs that he still remembers

For beer and tips, not Cadillacs,

Like “I Left My Baby Crying

In the Smoke Along the Tracks.”

“Silver Wings,” “Sing Me Back Home,”

“Ring of Fire,” “Faded Love.”

Oh, I know, ‘cause I was watching

From “The Window Up Above.”

All these young studs down on Broadway,

He could take them all to school,

But they’re too busy posing as outlaws,

They ain’t listenin’, listenin’ to that old fool.



Man, one of them teams scored a touchdown

And the whole place went insane.

He looked down and checked his tip jar,

Well, the total was about the same.

He did time in Moundsville Prison

In West Virginia, for running shine,

Kiting checks and forging passports

And other bold, creative crimes.


Lost his leg on an icy backroad,

Prayed for guidance from above.

Lost his woman to a greasy loan shark,

A dog-eared page in the book of love.

If they’d just shut up and listen

They’d find an undiscovered jewel.

But in this place where hearts have bar codes,

They ain’t listenin’, listenin’ to that old fool.


He was leaning up against a brick wall

Drinking beer straight from the keg.

He played an old Gibson J-50,

He had an orange prosthetic leg…

Charlie recently held a coronavirus concert. "That Old Fool" is the last song in the set.

You can order this CD from Charlie Robertson.


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Prepare for the Worst, Hope for the Best

Violent Thugs Taken Down

“They weren’t there trick-or-treating.” Cleveland Councilman Mike Polensek.

Timothy Peak (pictured above) did Cleveland, Ohio residents a favor when he shot and killed Waymone Williams and, through his court testimony, sent Herman Jennings to prison for life.

Shortly after midnight on July 28, 2013, Peak, 26, pulled into the driveway of his home on East 128th Street. A detective later wrote that “Peak stated he went to the BP Gas Station with his friend **Joanie Jameson, 21, to get some chips, then they returned to his home. Peak stated he and Jameson talked with Peak’s brother—Jeremy Peak—for a short time and then they began to leave. Peak stated that they both got into his car but before he could put the key in the ignition, he saw movement at the window.”

Suddenly, the front door of the 2008 Chevrolet Impala was jerked open. Before Peak could react, two men reached in and grabbed his legs. The unknown men wore black clothing, black masks, and transparent latex gloves. They began trying to pull Peak out of the car. Waymone Williams was armed with a Smith & Wesson six-shot .38-caliber revolver while Herman Jennings held a crowbar. As Peak resisted, Jennings slugged him with the bar, opening a large gash above his right eye. Blood streamed down Peak’s face, momentarily blinding him.

Jameson described what happened from her perspective. “I look to my left,” she said, “and see two men attacking Timothy…No one was on my side of Timothy’s vehicle. I say, ‘Oh, my God’ and I realize that we are getting robbed and I know this is a life or death moment. I proceed to run to the door of Timothy’s house and attempted to enter the pass code into the door lock at least two or three times unsuccessfully. While I am trying to enter back into Timothy’s house, I heard one or two gunshots go off. At this point, the other suspect came and grabbed me and threw me onto the ground. The suspect took my purse…”

Three months before, Peak had obtained his concealed carry permit. Now his training kicked in and he reached for his gun, a .45-caliber Springfield Armory XDM semi-automatic pistol, in the pocket of the driver’s side door. Because of the blow to his face, he was light-headed, but knew he had to act quickly to survive. In his interview with investigators, Peak stated that Williams “pointed” the gun at him. Still inside the car, Peak turned and snapped off a shot at his tormentor. Williams fell to the ground, on his back, with his pistol still in his hand. From that position, he fired at Peak, then attempted to sit up. (Williams’ bullet was later found lodged in the gutter at the front of the house.)

By now, Peak had crawled out of the car and stood up. He attempted to shoot Williams again, but realized his gun had jammed. He cleared it, then fired twice more at his assailant who was sitting on the ground holding his revolver. Finally, Williams slumped over and lay motionless.

By this time, Peak’s brother, Jeremy, a Marine home on leave, had heard the commotion and opened the door for Jameson. Peak, in shock, walked around his car in a circle, still holding his handgun. Jeremy and Jameson yelled for him to come inside.

As Timothy entered, Jeremy took the gun and placed it on the kitchen table. Jameson then pressed a towel against Timothy’s wound in an attempt to stop the bleeding.

Within minutes, police arrived. An officer wrote that “Williams, dressed as a ninja and wearing latex gloves, lies on the driveway, left side of the vehicle…Near the garage door is a tire tool; on the ground near the driver’s door [are] 2 fired casings and a ring with keys. On the driver’s door frame is a wallet. On the roof of this auto above the right doors…is another fired casing.”

A black “doo-rag” and a pair of latex gloves lay on the ground near Williams. Detectives found his gun underneath his right leg. Jameson’s purse and many of its contents lay scattered across Peak’s yard near 128th Street. It seemed likely that the second attacker had fled in that direction.

Cops quickly sealed off the crime scene. Checking Waymone Williams, they found him deceased.  A post-mortem examination showed that he’d been hit by each of the three rounds Peak had fired.  The report revealed the robber had a “gunshot wound to the left anterior chest that traveled through the heart.” In addition, a second round had hit Williams in the right side, while the third shot went all the way through the right side of his chest.

Peak was transported to St. Vincent Charity Hospital where he received stitches for his head wound. He later returned home shaken and bruised, but lucky to be alive.

After identifying Williams through fingerprints, detectives visited his home. There they obtained his cell phone from relatives. Reading the text messages, cops found that he’d recently contacted Herman Jennings. Well-known to CPD officers as a violent career offender, Jennings had recently been released from prison after serving five years of an eight year sentence for a brutal assault. In that case, his victim “sustained a broken metacarpal, an orbital fracture, a detached retina, along with multiple head and eye lacerations.” In yet another assault, Jennings sucker-punched a passer-by and knocked out several teeth. The victim was hospitalized for a concussion.

It didn’t take investigators long to track Jennings down. He was arrested and charged with aggravated murder. (In Ohio, as well as many other states, an accomplice can be charged with murder if a death occurs because of a felony he or she commits.)

A court document explained the reason Timothy Peak was chosen as a robbery victim: “Jennings’ brother Terrell was a former co-worker of Timothy Peak, who knew that Peak had just inherited a substantial amount of money after the death of his father.” Terrell likely told Herman about Peak’s windfall.

On reviewing evidence at the scene, as well as DNA and gunshot residue, CPD officials determined that Peak had killed Williams in self-defense and would not be charged.

The story was slow to catch the attention of local media. But Cleveland Councilman Mike Polensek, outraged at the violence in his city, wouldn’t let it lie. He contacted reporters, stating “as far as I’m concerned, [the criminal] got exactly what he deserved—lead poisoning. If [Peak] hadn’t had that gun, we’d be reading about him in a two-paragraph story in the paper as another innocent victim of violent criminals looking to prey on him like jackals. [But the criminals] picked the wrong man this time.”

As happens so many times in these cases, citizens in Peak’s community rose up in outrage after learning that Herman Jennings had recently been released early from prison for another violent assault. They demanded changes in sentencing laws, sentiments which were roundly ignored by the professional politicians in Cleveland.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Blaise Thomas told reporters that “Herman Jennings displayed a level of violence that belies an utter disregard for human life. He belongs in prison for the rest of his life.”

On October 28, 2015, Jennings was convicted of one count of murder, two counts of aggravated robbery, and found to be a repeat violent offender. The ex-con was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 35 years.

**Not her real name

Thanks to the Cleveland Police Department for their detailed report on this case. While researching this incident, I found several newspaper articles about it, but not as many as you would think.

Robert A. Waters is the author of Guns and Self-Defense with co-author Sim Waters. For 25 years, Waters has researched defensive shootings and written about hundreds of such cases. He has penned four books describing in detail many legitimate self-defense exploits. In addition, he has chronicled hundreds of such cases on his blog, Kidnapping, Murder and Mayhem.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Cuba in Revolution: Escape From a Lost Paradise

Book review written by Robert A. Waters

My son served in the U. S. Coast Guard. On patrol one day in the Florida straits, his ship came across a sad testament to humanity’s longing for freedom. Bobbing along in the waves, a wooden raft floated silently, its crew forever missing. The raft had been reinforced underneath with chunks of styrofoam and had been powered by a miniscule 1950s boat motor. Much of the styrofoam had broken free, perhaps by a storm or high waves and the vessel tilted half in the water and half out. The crew of the Coast Guard vessel stared in silence, knowing that the Cubans who had attempted to flee the oppression of communism were likely dead.

Cuba in Revolution has lots of intrigue going for it: an escape from communist Cuba that reads like a thriller; a history of Fidel Castro’s rise to power and dictatorial rule; a narrative of the way many in the American media covered up the fact that Castro was a communist; how the Soviet Union gained traction in Cuba; how the Kennedy administration betrayed the Cuban (and American) freedom fighters at the Bay of Pigs; and much, much more.

For many Cubans, Florida shines like a beacon in a dark night.

The Faria family had supported the overthrow of corrupt President Fulgencio Batista, but distrusted the communist schemes of Fidel Castro. That made them targets. Like the Roman emperors of old, the new ruler murdered anyone who could conceivably be considered a threat to his power. That included Batista backers and even his own supporters. Had they not escaped, it was only a matter of time before the Faria family would be imprisoned or worse, executed.

In 1966, thirteen-year-old Miguel and his father, a physician, made a desperate and harrowing escape from Cuba. Twenty-eight souls boarded a small, dilapidated wooden fishing boat called Venezuela Libre. After two long days and nights at sea, starving, sick, and battered by hurricane-like storms at times, or burning in the sun at other times, the little ship finally reached the Cayman Islands—and freedom. Eventually, the Faria family settled in Miami, then moved to South Carolina.

The escape was important to Miguel because, had he not fled the country, he would likely have been conscripted into the Cuban military and indoctrinated in the “virtuousness” of communism. That did not happen because Miguel’s father understood the evils of totalitarian governments.

Miguel attained the dream. He became a naturalized American citizen, graduated from medical school and became a world-renowned neurosurgeon. Today, he is an anti-communist, pro-freedom crusader.

Cuba in Revolution tells a compelling tale of how totalitarian rule can turn a prosperous, thriving nation into a backward hellhole. No wonder so many of its citizens wish to flee to the beacon up north.

This book should be required reading in our schools and colleges.

Cuba in Revolution: Escape From a Lost Paradise

By Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D.

Hacienda Publishing, 2002