Monthly Archives: January 2019

Rambling Thoughts on a Long, Long Way Back Home

For those of you who might have missed it, i’m headed back to Tennessee. Home. A short trip.

Vanderbilt Women’s Basketball is honoring my mother for her achievements as a Lebanon High School Blue Devilette during the 1934-35 season. The event will take place at halftime of the Volunteer-Commodore game on Sunday in Vandy’s Memorial Gymnasium.

i get in tonight, my sister Martha Duff, brother Joe and his wife Carla Neggers, and Maureen begin to assemble on Saturday. With luck, Tommy Duff’s entire family will be there for the game.

i have some errands to do tomorrow and perhaps Saturday. The other siblings will be gone by Monday and Maureen and i head back to the Southwest corner early Tuesday. Like i said a short trip.

Of course, short trips do not exist anymore if you are flying. Might as well count off the whole day. It ain’t fun like it used to be. Of course, my “used to be” was when there were no TSA lines, no jetways. Like i could walk to the aircraft on the tarmac. For a long time, i even used an American Airline huge umbrella they loaned you to walk to your plane. No,  i didn’t steal it, but i don’t remember how i got it. But it sure was useful, bigger than even golf umbrellas. Where did it go?

Today, Sarah drove me to Lindbergh Field, aka San Diego International Airport because they play down any association with a man who accomplished an amazing feat but had politically incorrect leanings long before they knew what politically correct meant and it’s easy to excoriate or rather damn dead people because they can’t explain — that doesn’t mean i agree with Lindbergh’s  political stance as i understand it. In fact, i abhor his position, but not his achievement.

i arrived almost as early as Maureen would have had she been with me. Maureen is extremely careful when it comes to air travel. Like if we have a noon flight, she would prefer us arriving by 9:00. That’s 9:00 p.m. the night before. i wasn’t that careful but with all the weather and coming off of the shutdown, i decided to actually get there two hours early. Attempting to get something done on the way, we left home early. I-5 traffic, unusual for that time of morning, dictated ditching the stop. So i get to the airport about twenty minutes before the cautionary two-hours. That was longer than the first leg of my flight to Houston.

Fun.

i zipped through the Southwest check-in. Good job. Then i went to the TSA Security (sic) check. Now these folks went to a lot of trouble to make sure i wasn’t a terrorist. Because of my age i think, i usually get the “PRE” designation, which makes the process a slight bit less onerous, but this time, no “PRE.” Of course, they need to be sure a retired Naval commander who held a Top Secret Atomal clearance now 75 years old is not on some kind of terrorist mission to blow up the aircraft he is riding. And then there were folks older than me who could barely walk, and the woman with her six-year old daughter, and families of three, four, five, sure candidates for terrorism. But what the hey? It doesn’t matter a thirty-second walk has turned into a quarter-hour or longer process from hell for all of the gazillions of innocent travelers. Of course, we need to be safe. But of course, anyone who really wants to blow up an in-flight commercial aircraft can get around such silliness. It’s the nuts who are easily recognized as someone to check they might want to ensure is safe. But oh no.

And then, there’s the Navy. The Navy decided they needed a whole line of security experts rather than relying on regular sailors and marines for security. So they created the MA rating and a designator for security officers. They, of course, no longer are concerned with the Navy’s mission. They are concerned with security, which is, quite frankly a sham. They create frustration and hassle for anyone entering a base while creating one of the softest targets for a terrorist imaginable: just attacking the never ending line of cars filled with active duty, retired and dependents waiting to get on to a base. Not to mention, any terrorist with a brain (thankfully, there are too many) could figure out a way to get through the harassment.

You might have noticed this is a pet peeve of mine. i just don’t like stupid.

But now, i’m on a flight to Houston, seated with a delightful, young Christina, who turns thirty Sunday and an equally enjoyable Walter. They are gainfully employed and apparently love their jobs. They talk of marketing and the things they say are the things i taught and coached about leadership and business management. i do not tell them of my past (except for my going back to attend my mother being honored and how my wife is big into yoga and i play golf…poorly). Their conversation pleases me.

And i am going home. i wish to apologize to my friends, dear friends in Lebanon and Nashville who i will miss. As usual, there is not enough time. Never enough time. Sometimes i think i live in at least three worlds. Home remains Lebanon, Tennessee, the home of my ancestors, a practical, religious, place with some shadow of an evil still hanging in its fabric. But i was never exposed to the shadow and still relish the beauty, the kindness, the kinship of all those folk who live there. Then there is Texas. It is my daughter and grandson’s home. i would like to spend the rest of my with at least part of my day with them. That will never happen for many reasons, but it does not keep Austin from being another world of mine. Then, there is the Southwest corner. People love to deride, joke about, detest California, especially if they are on one side of the political spectrum. i ignore all of that. i live in…sunshine. No air conditioning. Beaches. Mountains, year-round golf and fishing and all sorts of other things, not to mention my wife is a native.

i’ll continue to live there with her. Done deal.

But home is home. Vanderbilt is honoring my mother. This photo was taken a couple of years before she passed in 2014, just shy of 97 and nine months after her life mate had gone. She lived in  a Lebanon that was a wonderful place to live for her oldest son. Her being honored and her and her husband’s life were, in many ways a miracle for me.

i plan to write of the halftime ceremony honoring her and revisit thoughts about her and Jimmy Jewell’s life again, hopefully from a different angle.

And air travel, despite Christina and Walter, and good flight attendants, still sucks. i want to walk on the tarmac in the rain with a huge umbrella to my flight.

 

 

“Murphy’s Law”

From my “Murphy’s Law” desk calendar archives thanks to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Pipey, and cousin Nancy:

Eleventh Law for Naive Engineers: If more than one person is responsible for a miscalculation, no one will be at fault.

Goofy guy’s addition to the Eleventh Law for Naive Engineers: This law is also true for political groups unless there is someone from the other party involved..

“Murphy’s Law”

From my “Murphy’s Law” desk calendar archives thanks to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Pipey, and cousin Nancy:

The Cardinal Conundrum: An optimist believes we live in the best of all possible worlds. A pessimist believes this is true.

Goofy guy’s disagreement with The Cardinal Conundrum: Considering our current state of affairs, i must be an opti-pessimist.

An Evening: Reflection

It  was mostly a day of old man preventive maintenance.

Tuesdays are trash days, and is my habit, i arose early, did my routine to-dos, and took out the trash. i went from my dermatology check (all’s fine for a change), had a crown put back in, and…oh yeh, i took a nap. i did a little organizing and some preps for my trip back home. Maureen cooked some superb tilapia and a new cole slaw. i sat down and watched about ten minutes of Kentucky drubbing Vanderbilt in my favorite gymnasium of all time, switched to “Who Shot Liberty Valence,” but since i already knew the answer as i have watched this movie about two dozen times, after a while i turned that off as well.

Maureen was reading, sitting on the love seat with her legs up and Dakota in her lap. She occasionally watched the ball game (i’ve succeeded into turning her into a baseball fan beyond my wildest dreams, but she is only half interested in Vanderbilt basketball: i think  that will change if i ever get her to a regular season game in Memorial Gymnasium), and as a movie aficionado sans westerns, she wasn’t thrilled with Liberty or his shooter.

Before our supper, which is nearly all ways on dinner trays in the family room, i started a fire. It was borderline too warm, but i professed feeling a bit chilled as an excuse. i also know fire in the hearth days are numbered and i can never have enough. i have reported earlier how i was once known in early October in the Southwest corner to open up windows and turn on a floor fan or two in order for it to be cool enough to start a fire.

Maureen put up the cooking stuff and i washed the dishes. i added a couple of eucalyptus logs (they burn as well as oak and the smell is delightful) and stoked the fire. i sat back in my chair (i still don’t and never will have my recliner; designer wife thinks they are ugly and don’t fit with the decor; i don’t care and like recliners, have resigned myself to my fate, and laugh when i can make fun of her for not having one) and turned on Handel’s “Water Music” and a book.

When i play “Water Music,” which is often, i always think of two things as it begins. i picture myself on a plush barge with Henry VIII punting down the Thames with another barge attached alongside with the orchestra performing the piece. And i think of my daughter Blythe’s wedding. She chose excerpts from Handel’s work for her music and instead of the traditional “Here Comes the Bride” for her walk to the altar, the horn section of “Water Music” was played — okay, i don’t remember the section so now i will have to look it up again, but that’s okay as it means i have to listen to the whole thing again today — and her Daddy still beams thinking of Blythe, Jason, and her music.

i am well into the book. It’s “The Slavish Shore” by Jeffrey L. Amestoy. The biography was recommended to me by Dennis Smith, a good friend and retired history teacher. Dennis and i were talking at a party toward the end of last year when we discovered we were both big fans of Richard Henry Dana, Jr. and his book “Two Years Before the Mast.” Alan Hicks and i hardly ever get together without discussing some aspect of Dana’s 1834-36 sailing adventure from Boston to the west coast and back. Dennis recommended Amestoy’s story of Dana. i bought one for myself, my brother-in-law, and of course, Alan and his family.

It is a good book. Dennis was correct.

And it was about as pleasant an evening as i can recall. Quiet. Fire in the fireplace. Handel’s “Water Music” wafting in the air. Maureen and the cat. Reading. Thinking about all the good things in this world, and how lucky i am to be where i am and who i’m with, and somehow Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s “Our House” flashes into my mind:

I’ll light the fire
You put the flowers in the vase that you bought today

Staring at the fire for hours and hours while I listen to you
Play your love songs all night long for me, only for me…
Such a cozy room…
Our house is a very, very, very fine house with two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy ’cause of you…

I’ll light the fire while you place the flowers in the vase that you bought today.

And you know what? Old ain’t so bad.

The Beginning of a Love of the Sea, part II

Shortly after the chief petty officer’s sea sick bag trick, sea detail was secured and the regular underway forenoon watch (0800-1200) watch was set. Mostly green-faced midshipmen filed into the wardroom.

The midshipman coordinator explained a bunch of basics about life at sea for enlisted and officers, specific rules and expectations, and of course, possible punishment for not behaving like good midshipmen. We were assigned departments and given a schedule for rotating to other departments. i was to begin in operations, rotate to the weapons department after just over two weeks, and finally be assigned to engineering after another three weeks. Before we were escorted to our berthing, which was on the first deck below the fantail near the stern, i was informed my seabag had been delivered to a ship that departed about an hour after us, and the seabag would be transferred at first opportunity.

Thinking that surely would be a day or two, i felt okay. Little did i realize it would be more than three weeks before the seabag was high-lined from the recipient ship to the oiler escorting the carrier force and then high-lined from the oiler to the Lloyd Thomas. i was given the essential of toothpaste, toothbrush, soap to get through the first day while someone was supposed to be considering what they could do for my uniform.

All i knew was i smelled pretty badly and it wasn’t good for someone’s first day at sea. We settled into our berthing and they pretty much gave us the afternoon off except for watch standers. Our new beds, “racks” in Navy jargon consisted of a canvas cloth tied to aluminum frames stacked three deep above three 3×3 foot lockers. If you had the middle or bottom rack (being one of the shorter midshipmen i was elected to have a bottom rack — if the guy above you was in, the sag in the canvas would not allow you to roll over to a new position: you would have to get out of the rack and enter in the position you wanted. i have always been able to take a nap…anywhere, anytime, and this small obstacle did not deter me. After all, i had had a few pretty rough days and little sleep.

But i did get up for the evening mess. i took my place in line on the main deck port side and in due time passed through the mess line. The crew was intent on initiating the midshipmen to being at sea and the cooks were very much into that. The first evening meal was greasy pork chops, beans, and gravy. There may have been some potatoes and white bread, but i don’t recall. When i sat down at one of the mess deck tables, i was not enthusiastic in eating the fare on the compartmentalized metal tray in front of me, but i knew eating was necessary to keep my condition the way it was rather than reaching the condition of nearly all the other midshipmen in the mess. When all of the midshipmen were settled, the sailors had another delight in store. About a half dozen of them took turns walking among  the tables. When they reached where a midshipman was sitting, the sailor would take a sardine he had tied to a string out of a sardine can. Then making sure the sailor was watching, he would swallow the sardine whole. pause, pose, and the draw the sardine back out of his throat and mouth, letting it dangle before repeating the process. We lost everyone again except for two of us.

After the mess, they opened “C-Stores” for cigarettes. i could not believe it. Out at sea, supply sold a carton of cigarettes for one dollar. i stood in line for mine and when the storekeeper informed me they didn’t have Chesterfield Kings, i asked for a carton of Winstons. i got a bad carton and on my next time to C-stores, i went to Pell-Mell’s (another story). But that night, i just wanted to smoke. i needed it…i thought.

My division assignment was radar. That meant i would be working for the radarmen in Combat Information Center (CIC), then quartermasters, and then signalmen. My first watch was the evening watch (2000-2400). The radarmen were smart and nice guys. But i was a midshipman, and their goal was to get all midshipmen seasick that first day. The fact that i smelled like a wet sock that had been in the gym for about two weeks didn’t help.

When i reported to combat, they immediately put me on a radar scope, showed me how to watch the display and report any surface contacts. The watch coordinator put me on a scope where i was facing athwartship (for the landlubbers, it is more difficult for balance, i.e. imbalance induces seasickness, to adjust to the rolling of the ship when facing athwartship rather than fore or aft). The supervisor promised to check on me. They did. About every five to ten minutes, one of the watch standers would come by my radar repeater to check. Each one was smoking a cheap, foul-smelling cigar and ensured, while they were checking on me, their smoke was blowing into my face as much as possible.

So there i was and would be for almost four hours, certain to be sitting in the wrong position, holding on the radar repeater in a dark room with only a few red lights, staring at the cathode ray tube with green sweeps across a black circular screen while the ship rolled back and forth and cigar smoke completely surrounded me after a day of sailor tactics to get me to join my midshipmen buddies hugging the toilets while i smelled like a small goat herd after a rain in my now four-day old clothes. i felt if i was turning green. i could feel clumps in my stomach rising up. i began looking about for a barf bag. i felt a lump in my throat. i wondered how long it would be before, as they say in the Navy i “upchucked.”

Then, sitting there, i told myself i was not going to let these yahoos get pleasure out of seeing me seasick. i swallowed whatever it was coming up, and it went back down. i certainly wasn’t in the best of shape, but i made it through the watch, drank a lot of water from the nearest scuttlebutt when i was relieved by the mid-watch.  And with the nonparallel capability to sleep anywhere, anytime, i hit my rack and was asleep within seconds.

From that moment on the radar watch until as i write right now, i have never been seasick. i have cleaned up from shipmates on numerous occasions. i have been in seas only slightly less hazardous than those in a perfect storm. My biggest problem with motion is getting my landlubber legs back when i hit shore after long periods at sea, not the other way around.

The second morning underway, things began to get a bit better, thanks to the very sailors who were trying to get be sick the night before.

It was better but i certainly wasn’t in love with the sea yet.

“Murphy’s Law”

From my “Murphy’s Law” desk calendar archives thanks to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Pipey, and cousin Nancy:

Denniston’s Law: Virtue is its own punishment.
Denniston’s Corollary: If you do something right once, someone will ask you to do it again.

Goofy guy’s Extension of Denniston’s corollary: …and again and again and again.

“Murphy’s Law”

From my “Murphy’s Law” desk calendar archives thanks to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Pipey, and cousin Nancy:

Rule of Defactualization: Information deteriorates upward through bureacracies.

Goofy guy’s Extension of the Rule of Defactualization: …Therefore leading to the heads of larger bureaucracies essentially knowing nothing about their organizations.

One Fantastic Woman

i have always loved women. Put them on a pedestal. Been really close to many. And i must say in spite of difficulties with a few who have no use for me, i still care for all of them.

There are special ones of course.

But there is one in addition to Maureen, my wife, who is extra, extra special to me. We met in 1963. She was a freshman at Vanderbilt. i was a sophomore. Our relationship has been very serious at times, and very platonic at others. Through it all, even during long periods when we lost contact, we have always been friends. Even when we had relationships with others, we remained close.

Susan Butterfield Brooks is happily married to a wonderful man, Mike Brooks. They are both long time Atlanta denizens. They fit well together.

She and Maureen are good friends.

Susan and i, at least from my side, are about as special friends as two people could get. i treasure her thoughts, her inputs for me, her fun, her integrity, and…well hell, i could go on for about forever. She’s that special of a friend for me. Yeh, i think they invented that word “platonic” for us.

So Mike, give her a kiss for me and treat her well today.

And Susan, Happy Birthday, and thank you for being a fantastic woman and even better friend for essentially forever.

The Beginning of a Love of the Sea, part I

It wasn’t like i always wanted to go to sea. My idea of being on the water was waterskiing with buddy Henry Harding and his family or fishing with my father on Tennessee lakes. That was it for my ambition to be on any water.

In fact the Navy was my third choice in my college choices as i was about two months away from graduating from Castle Heights Military Academy. i really didn’t consider any military to be in my future, except for, of course, the draft.

My first choice for college was Centre College. John Thompson, one of the stars of our senior class was already headed there. My parents and i drove the 150 miles up to Danville to check it out. i loved it, but i really loved it because the football coach had indicated they would like to have me on the football team. i believed i might actually be able to play the sport for four more years, my dream. Unfortunately, Centre did not award athletic scholarships. The coach and my grades (i somehow — i still have no idea how  — finished fourth in academics in our class and even more remarkably had scored high on the SAT’s) allowed the administration to award me a $2500 scholarship.

i knew my parents could not afford to pay the balance, and i sadly declined the invitation.

My second choice was Vanderbilt. Each year, they awarded a four-year scholarship, The TRA Grantland Rice Scholarship to a deserving and promising sports writer. i had been the sports editor of the award winning The Cavalier, the Heights newspaper under the tutelage of one of the best journalists of all time, “Coach” JB Leftwich. It was for $10,000, at the time it would cover a large chunk of tuition and expenses.

Rumor has it i finished second. Bob Thiel, who ended up being one of my closest friends even until today, won it. He deserved it because he had been a superb reporter for the Evansville, Indiana newspaper.

i had also applied for an NROTC scholarship, never thinking i would end up being accepted as i kept thinking ole Grantland’s boys would do me well (i always have been a bit too optimistic). William LeRoy Dowdy, II, the editor of The Cavalier, and a far superior academic to me, was also going for the NROTC scholarship. One afternoon in the newspaper office, he and i decided it would be tougher for us if we both listed Duke as our number one choice of schools. So i opted for Vanderbilt. i wish it had been for my desire to take advantage of their reputation as “the Harvard of the South.” But i conceded Duke to Lee because i was a fan of Vanderbilt and Tennessee football and Vanderbilt basketball.

i got it.

There are many twists and turns of my academic disaster after i matriculated but i made it through the freshman year, which meant i would be going on a third class midshipman cruise.

At the end of April, i was ordered to report to the USS Lloyd Thomas (DD-764) in June for eight weeks of midshipman training.

The travel for my orders gave me two options. i could have the NROTC unit book an airline flight out of Berry Field to Providence and further transportation to Newport, Rhode Island or i could get there on my own and receive travel pay. After checking out the cost of a Trailways bus ticket from Nashville to Newport, i decided i could pocket a significant amount of money if i chose the pay your own way and get the travel pay. Bad idea.

My parents drove me to Union Station, which then was also a Trailways Bus Station. i was in my service dress Khaki midshipman uniform, complete with my combination cover. Around noon, we said our goodbyes and i boarded the bus. It was rather full. i took the aisle seat on the right side about one-third of the way back next to an older lady with a small hat on top of her gray hair.

By then, i smoked Chesterfield Kings. Cy Fraser had introduced me to them. After baseball games in my senior year, i had smoked Winstons when several of our baseball team after games would find a place where they would sell beer to minors (under 21 at the time) and find a country road, sit on the side of the road (along with several other antics of greater legend) in our baseball uniforms where we could smoke cigarettes and drink Country Club Malt Liquor. But that autumn of my matriculation, my fraternity pledge brother and still one of my lifetime friends, Cy introduced me to Chesterfield Kings. i liked the image. i liked the macho aspect of an unfiltered cigarette, and i liked the smoke.

The little old lady was not as enthusiastic. She bewailed the sinners who would smoke cigarettes. She foretold of death shortly after the U.S. government decided, even with the money thrown at them by tobacco interests, the public should be warned.

i lit up. In fact, i was pretty much a chain smoker for the entire five hour ride to Louisville with what seemed like interminable stops. She got off. i ate a woeful Stewart sandwich with chips at the fifteen-minute rest stop, drank a coke and reboarded.

The bus ride, with a stop at every spot in the road, took over forty-three hours with a transfer in Providence for the final hour ride to Newport. The bus arrived at the station in Washington Square at 0730. It was a sunny morning and the quaint little “square” was intriguing.

It was much different than when i was later in Newport. The station was at the point of the triangle to the east. “Washington Square” is not a square at all. Back then, Eisenhower Park was in the middle, and the courthouse stood at the east end, the base of the isosceles triangle they call a “square.” The sides of the triangle held a uniform shop amongst other shops and a diner or two. It seems there were a couple of attorney offices, and if i remember correctly, there was one or two bail outfits. Near the bus station were what we would call today, dive bars. Several more sailor bars were on Thames (pronounced thāmes, not “‘tems” like the street in London), the old, old street which ran north toward the Naval Station.

The waterfront of Newport still had that air of an old and rough seaport area, not the upscale touristy aura there today.

Other midshipmen, who were much smarter than me and had taken the air travel option were bussed from the Providence airport to the Trailways Station. The Navy haze gray buses were waiting for us. i debarked from the bus and went to the baggage hold to retrieve my seabag, which had all of my 3/c midshipman sailor gear in it, working whites and the classic dungarees with the blue chambray shirt — to this day, i am amazed some yahoo thought we should get rid of them and the bell bottom uniforms so our sailors could look like bus drivers and plumbers — and the dixie cup with a navy blue band around the brim — ditto on the Navy ditching them for ball caps, piss cutters, and combination covers.

Regardless, mine were not in any of the cargo holds. The buses were waiting as i frantically queried the bus personnel. As the Navy petty officers were telling me we had to leave because my ship, the Lloyd Thomas would be one of the first to get underway in less than two hours, the bus folks were admitting my seabag was not transferred in Providence as it should have been, that they had located it and it should, hopefully,  be delivered to the ship before the Thomas got underway.

Wondering just what the hell i was going to do if it didn’t make it but a bit placated by the assurance of the bus station manager, i took my bus  seat for the fifteen minute ride to the destroyer piers on the Naval Base.

As we filed off the bus, the chief directed me to Pier 2. My ship was on the north side about three-quarters o f the way down the pier. i had passed by Pier 1 and marveled at the USS Yosemite (AD 19). The flag ship was adorned with all sorts of flags and pennants with an immaculate and large brow to the pier. She was the flagship for Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet and was an impressive sight. She was the first Navy ship i saw for real. Little did i realize i would be her executive officer on my last operational tour twenty years later.

As i walked down Pier 2, i noticed small black particles in the air and settling on my combination cover and my blouse. i tried to brush some of them off, but they not only clung to the fabric, they were making holes. Back in those days, steam ships would “blow tubes” while pier side. This is roughly the equivalent having a chimney sweep clean your chimney. Blowing tubes was shooting forced air through the boiler tubes up the stack, blowing off the acidic residue, those black specks i encountered. If the residue was left on the stacks they could eat into the tube, and destroy the 600 pound boilers, most likely with a disastrous explosion. By the time i was commissioned, doing this pier side was forbidden and usually done on the mid or morning watch. By the time i was CHENG on the Hollister, you could get in real trouble and face fines, if you were caught with any smoke coming from your stacks. But then, there were no such restrictions. That cover and that blouse had little holes in them when i turned them into the unit upon my return.

i walked across the Lloyd Thomas’ brow, stopped, faced aft, saluted the ensign hoisted on the fantail, and asked the OOD on the quarterdeck for permission to come aboard, just as my Navy instructor had taught me to do. About a half-dozen of us were checking on board. The petty officer immediately escorted to the wardroom where the other midshipmen awaited us with the executive officer. There were eighteen third class and three first class midshipmen. The XO welcomed us aboard quickly. When i inquired about my seabag, one of the petty officer escorts informed me it was not delivered.

We were sent to the 01 deck forward of the bridge where Mount 52, the second forward 5″ 34 twin gun mount used to be, now it it had a hedgehog mount, an anti-submarine weapon on each side, but was more of a ceremonial deck than anything else. We fell into a three-rank formation facing the port side as the ship got underway.

In spite of stinking to high heaven and the restrictions of being at parade rest in the ranks, i had an initial feeling of exhilaration as the USS Lloyd Thomas cleared the pier, backed into a turn in Narragansett Bay and headed south by southwest out the channel past Fort Adams, Jackie Kennedy’s family Auchincloss estate and the summer mansions of ten mile drive.

About ten minutes after getting underway, the midshipmen in formation had their attention distracted. Some were already getting a little pale from the rolling of the destroyer through  the channel. A chief had gone down to the chief’s mess and retrieved a “barf bag,” a paper sack hung on rails through the ship’s passageways when getting underway, hopefully being used by some poor seasick dog to keep from puking on the bulkheads and decks. The chief poured some milk into the bag. He then took vanilla wafers, crumbled them up, and added them to the milk before shaking his mixture into a chunky mess.

He emerged from the port side hatch just aft of the midshipmen’s formation and under the port bridge wing where no one on the bridge could see him. He then spoke loudly to ensure all of the midshipmen could hear him, “Damn, every time we go to sea, i have to get sick. Looks like it’s gonna happen again.” He then paused, retched, shook, and pretended to blow lunch into the seasick bag.

The midshipmen were staring at him in disbelief. When he was sure they were watching, he explained as if to himself, “And there’s only one way to cure it.”

With that pronouncement, the chief proceeded to put the bag to his mouth and gulp down the milk and vanilla wafer concoction, making sure a great deal of the contents dribbled down his khaki uniform and onto the steel deck.

That was the final blow. Out of the twenty-one midshipmen, there was one first class, and two third class midshipmen including me,  left in the formation. The other eighteen were at the safety rails, retching their innards away into the sea.

i’m sure the sea detail on the bridge was wondering about the wimps they had just taken on board.

It was not an auspicious beginning of my time at sea. It was about to get worse.