It's Theme Thursday again this week and the theme is BELL.
And I don't have time to do an outrageous post for you because I'm in San Francisco on vacation (and have been so all week!). But "BELL" reminds me of the Bay Area in a small but important way so I'm going to share with you another excerpt from my ridiculous life adventures (part of my book I might someday finish). Flash back to 1979 when I am 17...
Living on the West Coast in Oregon gave me easy access to experience the California dream I’d always imagined without immersing in a five day across-the-country travel nightmare which would probably have overshadowed anything I experienced while in California anyway. Or would it? Let’s examine the evidence.
Like Forrest Gump before me, I was stupid enough to enroll into the armed forces without a lot of thought to my future. And while “stupid is as stupid does” that doesn’t mean I’m quite as stupid as one might think. First of all, I happened to have enlisted and served between senseless foreign wars. You’re just going to have to trust me on this but I don’t happen to like dying. I don’t know about you but for me there just seems to be something so irreversible to it. Sure; death is inevitable for all us but you don’t see a lot of people adding it as one of their 5-year goals.
I didn’t enlist into any of the normal armed forces one initially thinks of. The Army seemed a little too GI Joe for me. I had visions of a trench somewhere in Turkey where I am hopping around with gang green and trench foot. Ok, perhaps I had been watching Gallipoli and All Quiet on the Western Front too many times.
I didn’t have the right stuff for the Air Force either. I never had that obsession with airplanes that so many others have. I just don’t care. I cared when my plane’s engine was on fire over the Amazon but even then I couldn’t tell you if it was a Boeing Jumbo Super Size Whatever or an Air-Bus-that-Flies plane.
I’ve gotten ahead of myself though. No, the Navy wasn’t any better. I didn’t happen to find those sailor uniforms very appealing; as if fashion were my primary concern for a military career. The Marines were totally unacceptable. The few, the proud, the shaved! Jack Nicholson was right, “I couldn’t handle their truth!”
That only left the Coast Guard. Hey, it was an armed force too! Ok, not very armed and not really very forceful either. They did save lives though and they had the same college education and that meant it wasn’t just a job; it was free tuition! I even liked that they didn’t technically fall under the Department of Defense. The Coast Guard fell under the Department of Transportation. This was good and bad: Good because it meant I didn’t have to strap on some automatic armor-piercing assault weapon with enough rounds to level Detroit onto my back at all times (although it might be a step in the right direction to level Detroit.) The bad was the reality that they didn’t get anywhere near the budget the defense services did. There weren’t any $5,000 hammers around the Coast Guard bases. We barely had the budget to afford hammers at all. “There are plenty of sticks and rocks that work just as well,” the petty chief would bark at us upon realizing even all of the cheap hammers had been stolen.
Joining the Coast Guard at 17 gave me my first experience being on my own. Boot camp in the Coast Guard wasn’t exactly what I had expected. I thought that since it fell under the Department of Transportation it certainly must be more like a health spa. I was wrong as usual. It turned out that they were second only to the Marines as the hardest boot camp to make it through at the time.
So off I went to Alameda, CA for boot camp. Now Alameda is an island in the Bay area but there aren’t any lovely beaches. There aren’t any palm trees. There isn’t any sipping of fruity rum drinks in the sun listening to the Beach Boys. No, it was essentially Private Benjamin, Stripes, and Full Metal Jacket all rolled into one all-inclusive 12 week experience.
What I recall most about my boot camp experience was eating. Now you would think that with all of the ridiculous physical and mental games they subjected us to all day and night it would really work up an appetite. It did! The only problem is that the military dining experience isn’t quite up to par with your typical big city dining experience. Rather than gallantly making your entrance at your designated reservation time, we had the pleasure of lining up “nuts to butts” single file to wait while infinity passed by in order to get into the mess hall. The waiting might not have been so bad even if you did have your dick practically crammed into the crack of the soldier ahead of you had they not played this other mental game during the process. It didn’t have a name but was essentially called “don’t get caught making eye contact with anything other than the head of the person in front of you.” Nobody seemed to ever win at the game and eventually you’d get pulled out of line and forced into the embarrassing improvisation of you as a buoy.
“Ding Dong. I am a Buoy.”
“Ding Dong. I am a Buoy”
Over and over you’d have to repeat it while swaying back and forth like a bell; as if you were an actual buoy. It was great entertainment for the sadistic men that ran the facility. Here they had reality TV before its time and they didn’t even realize it!
Once you did make it into the mess hall it wasn’t any better. Feeding recruits was clearly a biological necessity that pissed them off and therefore demanded the least amount of time possible. In and out was the mantra call. This wasn’t some European social eating activity where the table was yours for the night and you could catch up on the day’s activities. In real life you have waiters there to cater to your every need. In boot camp you have what I term ‘negative-waiters’. They are the opposite of waiters. They hover over your dinner screaming at you to wolf it down like there’s no tomorrow. Get something you didn’t really like? Forget it; you’ll be swallowing it whole too lest they single you out for something extra special.
Of course being in California there is always the likelihood of an Earthquake, right? It was only years later that I realized the odds of spending 12 weeks and actually experiencing a major Earthquake were pretty damn high. Well, the odds for anyone else were high. For me they were about even and sure enough, a lovely 5.9 shaker came along. I don’t remember a whole lot about the whole experience. I didn’t see Charlton Heston come in to save anyone like in the Earthquake movie and I don’t remember experiencing Sense-a-round either. It did shake things around like some amusement ride and rather than having to dodge shoddy construction cement from some dilapidated building in downtown San Francisco for the event we simply got escorted out to the tarmac. That’s a fancy word for a whole lot of pavement or cement. Perfect for push-ups and marching and other useless character-building activities one can spend their time doing during a major earthquake.
I made it through boot camp just fine. I didn’t bother to eat the shoe polish they gave us to try and get out like some others did. It didn’t look that appetizing. I didn’t try and drink the brass cleaner they gave us like another guy did. I just wasn’t that thirsty. And I certainly didn’t try to sneak away and walk across the small bay of the island at low tide only to get stuck in the mud while the tide came. That guy got lucky and was rescued before drowning. No, that didn’t seem like an enjoyable activity either. I kept my head down and my mouth shut and got through with very few personal incidents. So much for my California Dreaming first experience!
Thursday, February 18, 2010
It's Theme Thursday again this week and the theme is BELL.
Thunk up by Ed at 12:05 AM