If you have just arrived at The Library in Purgatory, the first chapter is here.


"I never found the girl, I never got rich. Follow me."

~Leonard Cohen

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Chapter III.5


NMITC


What to say? It was an in-between time, a transition, and I see that in my writing. It had the highest attrition rate of any Navy A-school while I was there, a distinction usually reserved for the nuke school. They did not like fleet-returnees, such as myself, much. Absolutely hated it when I first got there. It was like being back in boot camp, which was where most the students were coming from. Thought about quitting and returning to the fleet. Finally found my groove though. I went to Captain’s Mast, for allegedly being UA, YN1 Faulkner the only staff member who stood up for me; got a slap on the wrist and 3.8/4.0 evals, which is unheard of for TDY assignments and were the highest in the class. They ended up really liking me, not sure why. Graduated third in my class, drank way too much, played a lot of beach volleyball, had EOD called on my Jeep, made a few friends, and saw a few concerts: Black Uhuru (again), White Zombie (not that great), Henry Rollins- spoken word (back when he was still angry), KMFDM, and Mel Torme (an incredible show; me and my buddy were the only people there under 50). Spent a lot of time hanging out at O’Sullivans, Friar Tucks, and a great little restaurant, Tautogs, which had just opened up, had great seafood, and the prices were ridiculously reasonable (looks like they still are).

Not much more to say that that. In hindsight, the five or six months went pretty fast and at the end of November, I was once again headed south, to some heretofore unknown town that had recently gotten an NFL team, Jacksonville, FL; which for the record is actually southern Georgia.


Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach
tastes like rusty aluminum cans
and ten-penny nails,
tourists urinating in pools,
carbon monoxide, and air-brushed t-shirts;
a rotting, stinking, degenerate shithole
catering to the worst kind of trash
and cheap asshole
left on the east coast
that couldn’t afford to hitchhike
to Jersey.


A Bitter PIL to Swallow

One lunatic’s
ravings against the night
A 1000 unheard voices
dashed by the cry of reason
Public Image Ltd.


NMITC

The moon hung low
full cheddar cheese in the eastern sky
running over hill,
treetop, and telephone pole.
The blower in Barnum’s car
kicked out the warm air around my feet;
it felt good.
The top was down
and the margaritas
sat right
in my head
only—
there should’a been more.
I had wanted to write like hell that night
but I couldn’t.
I sat straight
and stared ahead—
street lights
converged and vanished
into a yellow flash
my face a mask—
lips pursed
eyes slit
like a man
without a soul?
Like a man
who hurts too much?
We drove
on into the night
through the stoplights
back
into my nightmare—
NMITC.


The Wino and I Know

And I sit on the edge
of the Sea of Uncertainty—
slowly erecting my ship
of confidence, courage,
and self-inner-strength
alone.
The winds of fate blow
willy-nilly,
this and thus
whipping up
wicked foam-topped white caps.
I am a sailor at heart,
an explorer
lone wolf howling at the moon
on crisp
snow-crunchy
December nights
questions in my soul
big as the spinning universe.
My boat rides lightly
in the breeze and chop—
my destiny
the coral keys green
and aqua blue around—
for too long I have stared
out across the Sea
listening to her cry
smelling her
salt spray and breakers,
unable to reach her—
the naked lover
you’re allowed to see
but not to touch.
How I have yearned
for her
till I thought my heart would break—
caught up in the games
of pompous assholes
and righteous fools.
Every night I’d set sail
on her again
across my dreams
through the setting sun.
And the days and waves
slip into one
and slowly fall away—
uncertainty
giving way to
foresurety
falling into
tomorrow.
Whence I came?
I do not
no.
Where I’m going?
I don’t think
so.
Just to be underway
once more.


5th Deck

A boy
once dreamt of the Sea—
of full moons rising
slowly out of the blue-wet-waves,
of ships gongs
whistles
and buoys,
of tracing his fingers
through the warm-glowing
phosphorus
of midnight dreams
quietly rocked to sleep
by steady, reassuring swells.
Night after night
he stared out through
the smudged glass
and dreamed of places he’d been
lands he’d like to visit
and the people he loved
who’d been there
with him.
And one night
as the half-full moon rose
lazily out of the summer Atlantic
the boy realized
he’d forgotten who he was
reflected sharply in
the eyes of another
and the years of pain and hurt
rose like seaweed-clad
ghosts in the Sargasso.
And ever beyond the glass
the Sea beckoned reassuringly—
he was unsure whether to go
unsure what he had lost
unsure who he was.
And she flashed through his days
his dreams—
a lighthouse in the confusion
if only he could close in
on her beacon
find a way through the words
to himself
to trust her.
Could she actually
light the way?
or was he afraid of crashing
into her
and drowning her among the
scattered wreckage
of his broken soul?
Her eyes were clear and sharp
bright;
could she steer him through
the straits?
Was she strong enough to
withstand his darkness
the Ache in his soul
or would he once again
turn away in blindness,
wake up
and stumble upon legs
never meant to walk the ground?


Hurricane Season

The clouds are low and gray, whipped by a hot, dry breeze and threatening rain. One of those days were everything is jangled and discordant, gritty, and you can slide sideways between the edges into the shadows to catch a glimpse of how the machine works behind the scenes.

I wish I was sitting in an outdoor café slowly getting drunk on gin and tonics, watching the pretty girls stroll by, hair tossed by the breeze, oblivious to the magic working its fingers all around them— sharpening, loosening, twisting, prying. Instead I am stuck here on base, on duty, in this case a very cheap, heavy, ugly thing to have to have. Maybe I shall give it away or leave it lying in a ditch by the side of the road, a place, in this case, to which it is much better suited to call home.

So here I am, finally, at Cas and Carrie’s, lying on the sofa; Jeff outside with Bear— his wife lying in a hospital bed hooked up to a machine, liver slowly succumbing to its own poisons— and Kelly…I don’t know, it’s dark there, where she is, but she’s having a smoke.

The waves are getting frantic, crashing about as the sea turns a deeper green, the clouds slowly picking up speed and momentum as they begin to circle. The rain comes suddenly, in sheets, driving, stinging, a thousand paper cuts of consciousness ripping your tears away and drowning them in a swollen river of guilt. The road is washed out, the way unclear. The hollowness inside calls warmly like the freezing cold, “…lie down and sleep, forever.”

Fifty aspirin. She ate fifty aspirin in the darkness, crying, as the last hand slipped away from hers, outstretched. Fifty aspirin as the hurricane picked up momentum and began drawing players into the dance, front and center, leading actor, supporting actress, starring…

I’ve seen it happen before and my whole body screams, begs for me to kick all engines back full. I’d don’t know if I can hold the eye of the hurricane this time, don’t want to. And yet that ugly misshapen word calls: duty. And he brought his friends, loyalty and friendship.

Oh god Kim, I’m so sorry. I had to kill all my feelings to be the rock you clung to, and in the darkness I lost them, tried to steal your sun, told you you meant nothing at all. And you believed me…the rock you clung to becoming the one around your neck.

Fifty aspirin. Fifty fucking aspirin. What a way to show your love for someone. What a way to say stay. Love cannot live like that, doesn’t mix with aspirin, drowned so deeply in another’s cry that it wipes away the sun. I cannot save anyone, I cannot even point the way to someone who believes I can. I know this, in the most terrible, conscious way.

The hurricane builds, growing in intensity, velocity. But no! To the west, always to the west, the sun is going, setting, casting long, intimate shadows over the landscape. It knows. It comes. It goes. To the west then, with a cold drink in my hand and an easy step in my gait. Maybe I will see Kim…tell her I’m sorry.


Engine Summer

The fresh cut Grass
lay in the yard
among the beheaded Dandelions,
slowly bleeding
green ichor.
His sad little mouth
twitched and convulsed
as He tried to sing
to the Sky
with His last breath,
eyes weak but focused.
The air was thick and pungent
with the smell of freshly mown grassy comrades
and warm dirt
another Indian summer Sunday
afternoon massacre.
There was no dishonor though
in dying this way—
He was after all,
no weed!
He’d started young
thrusting and cutting, slashing
through Death’s fold of snow
and grown straight and sharp
a Blade:
a Hero, a Warrior, a Brave…
And so it was,
that a wise and contemplative old preying mantis—
named Hunter—
stopped an impertinent young moth
from stepping on the dying Blade—
knocking him back on his righteous little ass
clicking in an ominous tone,
“Leave Him be…
He is Bro-Ken,
one of us.”
The Sun finally sank
behind the red and yellow Maples
as the brave Blade finished his song
and lay back with a sigh
closing His eyes.
The mantis bowed his head respectfully
slowly slipping his empty flask
back into his tweed coat pocket
and headed home—
He was late.
He told his wife
that he’d eaten on the way.


Charleston

Sitting here on the rev watch
looking at post cards of Charleston—
a final palm-treed,
cobble-stoned oasis
before stepping off
into that azure-blue desert
known as the Atlantic
where white stratocumulus clouds

pile up,
stacked one on top of the other
by the steady offshore breeze;
and the salt-tangy flavor
of the Sea
greets you
in the already hot and balmy morning
as you climb sleepy-eyed
into your Jeep
to race the coming sun to work.
Charleston—
In it’s red-brown brick,
black wrought iron,
Rainbow Row-shuttered
repose
iron cannon clad Battery—
muzzles pointed hauntingly
towards Ft. Sumter.
A black container ship
slips under the lighted
Cooper River Bridge
(the one Bruce Willis and what’s his name jumped off of
In Die Hard III)
past the darkened Yorktown,
coming hard to port
to head west
as the tiny pilot boat
races back,
past Chutes Folly
and the red warning light there
towards hot coffee
and the warm buzz
of 4 a.m. radio.


The Jewish Mother

Two a.m.
Another lonely Saturday night.
The wind
is blowing cold-Indian summer outside
as last call goes down
and the smoke
from a 100 lonely cigars
follows me out the door
like so many lonely ghosts—
where are you?
The waves flood the beach
my soul awash
in this lonely town
I thought
I’d find you here
another city
another bar
another lonely night.


Hammerheads

Her form was Japanese-cartoonishly-
waifish,
her smile
all woman,
and her eyes
openly wanton.
“Did you call my name?” she asked,
small leather brown pack skewed
to one side of her shoulder.
The Cult sang, She Sells Sanctuary.


Gripped

I can feel it all over again.
I can feel feeling it.
A great big cry
once a year
echoing down the halls
from my past.
A cry, a call for help
so sad, so pathetic
tuned so specifically to me
that my whole body, my whole
soul resonates and I cast about
forlornly for the source
the answer drowning in
a sea of melancholy I can’t
explain and pounded by low
gray clouds, cool first Fall
and a steady drizzle.
Every year from September to
January, although much
much more poignant with
cold, velvet snow underfoot
and a crisp, crunchy full moon—
a certain kind of winter’s insanity.
I have stayed too long
in this place
lost my peace lost
my way I walk
about not talking lips
pressed tight eyes
wide and open like I’m
dreaming full of hurt
and lonely trying to get out
looking for a saint to rescue
me so pure my darkness
my sin will not break her
eyes not turn into my own
and cast me into the deepest
depths of isolation and hell
not condemning, not my father
a prisoner on death row
awaiting judgment
sentenced there by himself
a jury of one unable to
follow through on his own execution
and the world spins about just so
it’s in my blood a melancholic
junkie unable to find the fix
that would set him free
forever begging the pimps
and pushers for something knew
something different the
answer burned in my old
past discarded like some
worn, cheap toy without a second
thought the Velveteen
Rabbit my savior will
you hold my hand as I open
Pandora’s Box praying for
tomorrow and drying my tears?
The things you’ll only admit to
yourself when you’re drunk.


Regret

And I wonder who I am anymore
this thing I’ve become
my face amuses me
in the mirror
because I don’t recognize it
for my own
regret.
And the music takes me away
under the full-bloom stars—
cutting between the moon-drenched
white-washed orange mesas,
green Saguaros and Joshua Trees
eating up the yellow-dotted line
laid so carefully on the worn
cracked tarmac
a junkie speed-freak
the wheel warm in my hand
face alive in the glow
of the dash
the smell of sage
and red rock.
My eyes in the mirror
amuse me
because they now dance
look less harsh
two pools of humor
a child’s
regret.
And what do they want
has the world changed
or how they see it?
Where are they going
and what are they looking for?
Just wait till tomorrow
the sun slowly sets into the sea
no land in sight
sitting, smoking, thinking
the calluses on my hands
I know like an old friend
and the faded and salty dungarees
they rest on
happy, tired, content
smiling to myself
rolling with the swells
my eyes in the sky
amuse me
unrecognizable
unfathomable
familiar though—
laughing
and who we are
where we are going
maybe I forgot
I don’t know
Regret
Just wait till tomorrow
Just wait till tomorrow.


A Poem To My Dead Father

I heard you died yesterday
and didn’t know
to smile,
to cry,
or to curse you to the ends
of the worlds.
Because finally,
you are at rest
peace with yourself
your world—
your father
no longer able to reach you
but neither can I.
And a tear falls
into the bonfire of my anger
for leaving me here
alone
without a map,
a birthright
the ancestral wisdom
you took to the grave with you.
And even as you embark on your journey
through the land
of the dead
I do likewise—
a new ancestral line
hoping that my son will find
in me
everything I yearned for
in you.
Fare thee well.


Untitled

The wound so deep
the fear so great
when will you just let go
and quit running this darkness,
staring the specter of soullessness
in the face?
Your dreams are all empty
and nobody hears you cry in the night—
all so all alone.


Fuct

What I imagine
doesn’t come true
and what comes true
I don’t imagine.
What I remember I don’t know
and what I know…
I don’t want to remember.


Graven Image

And I am erecting an Idol—
a magnificent graven image
gilded in the amber gold of dreams
and the abysmal black of a thousand nightmares.
Riding high above the plains
of our loftiest expectations,
terrifying and angering the gods,
it will replace you my love,
with your delectable imperfections,
as the object of my desire.
I am building it
in my own image
because it is impossible to love
what I do not know…
no longer to awaken
and see reflected in your eye
what I put there
and neither of us understands.
But instead,
trapped in every eye
this glorious, ignoble
monstrous image—
cold and definable
without doubt
Heretic.
Help us, save us
take us away.


Ophelia had Friends

Why is it
that man feels that
he, or at least someone else,
should own everything
he sets his eye to?
Instead of teasing, enticing
what he would
from Mother Nature
he insists that she is his—
beating her constantly,
demanding ever more.
The romance is lost
magic and communication gone,
and, ultimately,
she will humble him mercilessly
for his arrogant suppositions.


2nd Gear

She blew through me
like a passing summer breeze—
the heart and hand of God.
What did she do to me
and what have I done to myself?
Drug-crazed-amphetamine smile
keeps the barking dogs at bay.
Somewhere there is a place for me—
where these empty eyes don’t see
and these hollow hands
reach no more
for empty graves.
She’ll be waiting for me there
with gun in mind
and a cold summer’s stare.
You eat the pills
you play the part
you watch the tube
from dawn to dark.
But in the spaces
between the words
you hunger for more
than the cardboard shit you’re fed.
You long for cold stars
and a fiery sun
hot love
in another’s arms.

NMITC Summer (Adams)

Hot summer sand
and dehydration
lying back in cool white sheets
and air condition
long days
and long barracks
cold, white tile floor
beneath bare toes
no-bodies home
some where out side...a boy is shouting
in the dusk
something smells like boot camp
and the earth is uncertain and
shifting underfoot
the back asphalt
is still warm
and prickly
above, the stars
are bright
and I can hear the ocean.
It makes me smile to myself
young, tan, wild, and free
my hair dancing in the breeze—
a Monet evening
of youth, BBQs, lights, and music.
I turn
and Adams looks up from his book
he laughs
because
he knows what I am thinking
But I’ve forgotten already...
and Caudle...
ahh Caudle...
But the Jeep is calling
and gin
and tonic
because life is short
and you only have a lifetime
to do what you want.
On the road with Kerouac
there’s a full night out
and I look over at Adams
halo’d by the dash lights
and stars
he looks at me
and laughs
cause he knows what I’m thinking
but I’ve already forgot
and Caudle—
ahh Caudle...




Saving Grace (Unfinished)

“I can feel the fall coming,” I said. We stood silently watching the waves crash up onto the beach. Weekend after Memorial Day in Virginia beach, the place was empty, a ghost town; it was the first thing that either of us had said in ten minutes.

“The fall?” She said, looking at me with large green eyes, voice catching. I turned away from the wheeling gulls to look at her. White clouds torn from some crying kid’s cotton candy floated lazily over her head under ominous, heavy, haze-grey ones. Some 200 miles off shore, hurricane Lewis whirled like some cheap 45, spinning off a steady breeze and an occasional sheet of cold grey rain from its terrible eye, squinted in unbiased judgment at 120 mph.

“Things only get complicated,” I thought, “when you slow down to look at them closely. Keep it simple stupid.” Grace looked like she was going to cry and then it clicked in my head and felt like an unintentional ass. “Yeah, fall,” I mumbled around my cigarette, “as in autumn. You know, leaves turning orange, yellow school buses, pumpkins, etc.”

“Oh,” she said, “but how can you tell?”

Flicking the cigarette onto the white sand and turning, “How do you know anything? You just do.”

“I guess so she whispered,” pulling her white sweater tighter around herself. It was all wrong and I didn’t know what to do about it.

Let me go back here to do some explaining and maybe this will start to make a little sense. Maybe.

Grace is an angel, so she says, with wings, harp, halo, the whole nine yards. And the crazy thing is that I find myself believing her, in spite of all my skepticism and agnostic tendencies. Maybe I want to believe her, not so much for my own sake or salvation but for hers. More than one night coming down in some shit-hole for a bar with a gin and tonic in my hand, thinking it’d break my heart if someone who believed so much in what they said were, was wrong.

I met her back in late July at King St. Station. She just sat down next to me and stared at Beavis and Butthead on the TV, not even ordering a drink or anything. There was something different about her, you could tell immediately. Different from all the young yuppie and rich-kid-hippies who frequented the joint, rebelling against dad’s money and everything else they’d come to embrace as soon as they’d smoked enough dope and grown their hair long enough. The cheap drinks and the fact that no one from the boat went there were the only reasons that allowed me to put up with all the pretensions in the place. Usually I was drunk by eight if not sooner. From there the nights only got better, usually.

Anyway, here am I am ordering another gin and tonic even though it’s pointless because I’m halfway through the night and nothing, no buzz. But, it’s something to do. She sits down on the stool next to me, watching TV like she’s never seen it before. Billy Pilgrim is playing on the radio behind the bar, “…I can see you. Don’t even know you. Falling into the sheets at night. Lay my hand flat on my chest. Feel your heart beat back the night” and all of a sudden it’s one of those weird moments you can’t explain, anyway you try. Michelle- so beautiful it hurts- brings my drink, something to do with your hands when it hurts too much to hold the pen and get close to the truth. She looks at me, Grace, and smiles the saddest most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen.

She sat there smiling at me- a drink in one hand my pen in the other. And suddenly I felt like the biggest fucking fake in the world, just like that night in France, watching the old men play bocce ball, listening to Dead Can Dance and sipping a cold rum and coke.

We walked out to the end of the pier, the drink I’d snuck out of the bar in my hand. Beyond the hazard lights of chutes folly, a little to the left, you could see the lights of the WWII carrier, Yorktown.

“So you’re an atheist,” breaking the silence.

“Not an atheist,” I replied, turning to her, “an agnostic, of sorts…”

“Oh,” she said sharply, turning and walking on. Her feet echoed dully on the grayed wood planks worn smooth by a thousand couple’s feet on a thousand Indian summer nights just like this one. The waves lapped quietly at the pilings and faintly off in the distance you could just make out the clang- clang-clang of a buoy’s bell bobbing slowly in the swells. I had the strange feeling that something peculiar was about to take place as the hairs on my neck stood up. I watched Grace walk, puzzled.

She stopped about five feet away from me- it was quiet again- paused, and pivoted on her left heel, stopping to face me squarely.

“And…,” she drew out the words sternly, “what do you think of angels?”

“I don’t know,” I laughed, “I don’t think about them that much.”

“Don’t think about them huh?” She snapped, ponytail swinging vigorously, accentuating each syllable. “Well, what the hell do you think about?”

I was taken aback by her tone, the iciness in her voice. “What? You’re not serious are you…,” I paused, “wait a minute, you’re not saying that you’re an angel are you?” My voice was incredulous, “are you?”

Grace stood still, glowering at me; feet spread wide, hands on hips. “Mark well what you see here Chance,” she growled between clenched teeth, “for it will only happen once in your lifetime.” Her words were hard and cold and I raised the cup to my lips in a half gesture of self-defense, carefully sipping the nectar within. “I have never disbelieved in you or your imperfections, don’t doubt me in mine.” She held my gaze steady, hard, for a full minute. Then, threw back her head and held her arms outstretched, back arched. A blinding white light seemed to emanate from her and I blinked several times, taking an involuntary step back. When I had refocused, Grace floated in front of me two feet off the wood deck, slowly pivoting around an invisible axis that ran through her head and out her feet. She was bathed in a soft white light, from her shoulder clefts/blades sprang two beautiful/huge wings that stretched and contracted slowly like unworked muscles. Her face was radiant and serene- the most beautiful I had ever seen, reminding me if every thing that was ever right in the world. A tear slowly ran down my cheek for no good reason.

*****

Grace climbed up into my lap, wrapping her slender arms around my neck, and burying herself in my shoulder.

“I never want to lose you Chance,” she sighed, her whole body trembling. “You’re my only salvation.” I felt a t once a tremendous surge in my ego and importance, but at the same time, my heart sank like a rock thrown in still, clear water because I knew that I’d never be able to save her, anyone, barely myself. A tear rolled down my cheek followed by another. She pulled back and looked at me curiously, tilting her head to one side. I slowly shook my head, as if trying to clear my thoughts. She looked so damned beautiful, head cocked to one side, blond bangs hanging in green eyes torn between concern and confusion. I didn’t want the moment to end, her arms tight around my neck, the closeness of her lips, her right breast pushing against my heart, the whole thing so bittersweet. Our eyes locked and I felt a part of me go cold, a part of me die. Her eyes so deep, so open…

“What’s wrong?”

A thousand sunsets slowly sank into the sea as the stars slowly popped out, one by one, like popcorn in slow motion, a full moon finally climbing its way up the horizon-slowly turning blood red and slipping down the other side. My hands felt cold.

“Grace…,” I felt like Peter as the cock began to crow.

*****

My silly (smiling) man fighting
With the shadowy burdens of your/his soul
I’ll behind the silver (dream) moon dreaming (waiting)
For the lover of my whole

*****

I used to draw turtles when I was suicidal. Somehow they seemed so stupidly brave, just going on and on as if someday the glass would give way to their pressed noses and constant paddling. And with that freedom, what ecstasy they would know- like a seagull in flight.

Stupidity, determination, or faith? The way we slowly, stubbornly plod through our lives ready to pull back into our armored shells at the first sign of confrontation or intimacy. I’m not looking for salvation or sanctuary, but (a little) grace- for being the monster I know I am.

*****

“You had no guardian angel,” she said.

“What,” I put down the spoon and turned.

“You’ve never had a guardian angel. Ever,” carefully, as if the news might fell me.

“What do you mean never had… I though you just said that…but…,” I stopped confused and suddenly nervous.

“I know, I know. I asked once, my mentor (need name), and he told me never to speak of it again and to leave you alone.

“This is ridiculous,” I said, turning back to the skillet,” I mean, I never believed in this crap anyway; ex-communicated?”

“No,” she whispered, a small hand on my shoulder, and then another- slowly pressing up against me, “I first heard you whimpering in your crib when you were about two, when you had meningitis. You couldn’t even cry. I felt so sorry for you, just lying there alone suffering so quietly. I looked for your guardian angel but couldn’t find one. That’s when I asked my mentor and he told to me not to think of or mention it again.

*****

This was s’posed to be the story of Grace and Chance but I could never find the right voice for the damned thing and finally gave up after many hesitant starts. I wonder if I could do it now, seeing the story for what it really was trying to get at (yes I know, you’ll just have to wait, to see if I do and what I meant by “what it was really trying to get at”)? Here’s a hint, though at the time of conception of both ideas they were totally unrelated, at least consciously, Grace is, thematically/symbolically, the same as the singer in the Wasteland.

Grace, as you have figured out, is an angel who comes to earth to save/assist/help Chance, who has no guardian angel. She is strong and fearless but naively innocent. If they were to make a movie, Alicia Silverstone would be a good fit. Chance, unbeknownst to himself or anyone, was once an angel who fell out of grace for some, as of yet unknown transgression, and was demoted to earth as a human. He is too smart for his own good, cynical, has a heart of gold, but is slowly succumbing to his own self-destructive tendencies. I would actually say that Bill Murray in Lost in Translation would make a good Chance, or Nicholas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas.

Grace is determined to save Chance but the longer that she spends in the mortal realm, the less of her divinity she remembers and she slowly starts to spiral out of control and away from herself. Chance, unable to recognize the same patterns in himself, readily sees them in Grace and in spite of his disbelief, cynicism, and self-protective fears finds that more than anything else, he wants to do something that matters, he wants to save Grace, even though doing so means facing everything that he has spent his whole life trying to avoid. Ultimately, they end up saving each other. I guess, in a way, it would be like O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi, only different.

But actually, I guess, it would be more like the Frog King because, as Joseph Campbell notes of the story, 

“I like the story particularly because you have both of them in trouble and they’re both in the bottom of the well and each rescues the other.”[1]
So there you go, sorry to leave you hanging.





[1] Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss, pg. 126

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Comments/Questions/Feedback

Alright, this is new and we will see how this works. For now, rather than have a comments section at the end of each post I will have a central comments page here. More to possibly follow. Have at it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Chapter III.4


The Revolutionary Adventures of Sometimes Seaman Slack


I learned a lot of things on the Turner. What follows is a couple of ‘em:


I was sitting back on a gear locker on aft-lookout one sunny afternoon as we steamed through the Adriatic at a leisurely five or so knots, enforcing the no-fly zone. I had only been on board a couple of weeks and was still a “boot” by everyone’s reckoning. There were no contacts on the horizon and I was engaged in every lookout’s favorite pastime, daydreaming— probably about booze and girls, in no particular order.


Several members of Deck division (OD) were busy pulling down an old decrepit locker off the O-2 port boat-deck. The locker was beat to hell and would no longer function as a locker, much less anything else. The guys fought the thing down to deck level and were marching it back to the fantail to toss it over the side, err “float test” it— a nautical test whereby something is tossed over the side and observed to see whether it floats or sinks.


BM1 R. made the first mistake, rather then just chucking the thing over the side, which he should have done, he asks me to call up to the bridge and request permission. Now, anyone who has spent any real time in the Navy knows that the unspoken FIRST RULE, above all others, is, “Never ask permission, always beg forgiveness.” Well, I didn’t know that at the time and I don’t know what BM1 Reid’s excuse was.


So, I call up to the bridge and ask permission to toss this worthless, former self of a locker over the side.


“Aft-lookout, bridge, stand by,” I’m told. You do a lot of that in the Navy, “Stand by to stand by,” being a common term. Those commercials that say that you will get more done in the Navy by 9 a.m. than most people do all day, well, it oughta say that you will get up earlier than everyone in the world and stand by more than everyone else all day by 9 a.m.. Anyway, the word comes back that permission is denied.


It is here that I make the second mistake. Rather than just telling BM1 R. that they can toss the damned thing over the side, I try to explain to the bridge just how busted up this locker is, thinking that I can win them over to my point of view. Now you have to realize that I am not in direct communications with the authorizing authority here, the officer of the deck, rather, I am talking to an OS, one who has fallen into disfavor with his compatriots in CIC who have exiled him to the bridge to maintain the plot there and is now relaying all messages from the lookouts.


This goes on for a while to no avail. The guys, not knowing what else to do, are fixing to return the locker to its place when it hits me, right out of the blue. Oh it was so sublime, so wicked, and yet so perfect, a universal truth, what we needed here was accountability, responsibility goddammit!


I waved wildly at BM1 R. to stand by as I called back up to the bridge, “Bridge, aft-lookout, interrogative, who is the officer of the deck?”


“Mr. Monnaco.”


“Well, tell Mr. Monnaco that his new locker will be in his state room by the time he gets off watch,” god I’m a genius.


“Wait one.” A different way of saying stand by.


“Aft-lookout, bridge…”


“Go ahead…”


“You have permission to jettison the locker.”


I waved the go-ahead to BM1 R. and after about twenty minutes, the locker finally went over the side. For the record, it did not float.


*****

One day, as messenger of the watch in port I had to go down to one of the FFGs moored up behind us, the Carr, the Carney, I don’t remember— all I know is that it was one of those ships that had a skeleton crew of “real” Navy crew on board and the rest were made up of reservists. So I’m waiting for something on their quarterdeck, talking to a couple of the “real” Navy guys on watch on the quarterdeck; seems that they had a dog on board, the ship’s mascot or something. That didn’t go over to well, apparently the thing was always sick, crapped everywhere and you hoped that it wasn’t in one of your P-way. It also tended to climb up ladders and then not be able to get back down. Now don’t get me wrong, I love dogs, they just don’t do well long term on ships.


The other thing that I quickly found out was that the reservists were about fucking worthless. Those guys did not have one nice thing to say about ANY reservist, unless watching TV and complaining were compliments. I tucked this piece of information in the back of my head, and would later seriously ponder on it after a couple of airdale reservists (the worst kind) set the Kennedy on fire by dropping an empty OBA canister (pure O2) into a 55 gallon drum with fuel oil in it. The resulting combination closely resembled Fougasse; only we weren’t some Green Beret firebase defending against charlie coming through the wire. Flaming fuel oil blown all over the hanger deck at 0200 is NOT cool.


*****

I was on watch one night, midwatch I think, on the helm. The OOD called out some course change and I started to repeat it and then stopped, “Orders to the helm?” The OOD repeated his command and I changed course accordingly. BM2 Butch was the Boats of the Watch and came over and told me in quiet tones that I’d heard the OOD right the first and to trust myself; that first hunch/intuition was almost always right. He was right and it is some of the best advice that I ever received and I’m grateful for it to this day, though I sometimes forget and find myself asking life, “orders to the helm?”



The Geese

I hear the geese call
even in my troubled dreams.
Standing out on the back porch
after everyone is gone—
and the fire gallops madly in the fireplace
like the bourbon in my veins—
lighting a clove with my lucky Turner Zippo
I hear the geese, and the intuitive call to be
elsewhere
haunts me so subtly,
so subtly.
And like the cold, crisp crack of a shotgun
my past here takes me in the breast
leaving me bewildered, confused, and wounded—
wondering if I can fly on any longer.
Where am I coming from?
What am I doing here?
Where am I going?
The house stands quietly behind me
a silent witness
to all this turmoil and pain.
I come back and I come back
and how many more times can I do this
before it’s all over?
Before I can move on?
Before it’s done?
Fat, white snowflakes
fall slowly from somber, gray clouds-
a winter wonderland.
I can’t find anyone in the phonebook
that I went to school with and
I’m afraid to look for my own name.
A flock glides silently overhead
looking for a place to spend this cold winter night.
A clear destination, a purpose.
I long so desperately to be with them
it brings a tear to my eye—
earthbound and lost.
I snuff out the clove
and flick it away.
The warmth inside beckoning to me, shivering
the answer must lie somewhere,
somewhere within reach.
And even if it doesn’t,
there’s always the cry of the geese
in my troubled dreams.


Off the Road on the Coast of Columbia

I read On the Road by Jack Kerouac on our second LEO Ops since getting back from the med cruise, where we made sure that the Serbs and Croats didn’t use planes to kill each other, doing it the old-fashioned way instead. Now, mostly we sat around off the coast of Columbia hoping that we didn’t break down and wishing like hell that we were somewhere else. My Divo, Mr. Edwards loaned it to me to read and I finished it in three days— yellowed pages crammed in between watches, usually at the sacrifice of all too little sleep.


The ending kinda surprised me, the cosmic, colossal truth— even as simple, complex and esoteric as a koan— that the book, the beat generation, built up to wasn’t there; only a New York cab speeding away from a forlorn figure walking hunched in the street, kicking at a can perhaps. And yet, somehow it was the right ending for the book which struck me as a sad, mellow, kind of tragedy, like watching the sun set in the rain. Nietzsche said, “God is dead,” and the sun set on Sal, Dean, and old man Moriarity…end of book. No divine light, mind over matter or over god; not even a ubiquitous car chase and fistfight that Hollywood so loves to redeem the heroes and punish the wicked. Nothing, the end, in a very certain, final way.


But it struck me that I knew Dean, in the days before I started sitting off the coast of third-world countries in haze-gray rust buckets for fun, back when I was still in school; only his name wasn’t Dean, it was Bernie. And in a more obscure way, I also knew Sal, but he wasn’t him, he was me.


Bright Eyes

The road before
the road behind—
I made love to her that night…
in the back of a gray Subaru Brat
as the sun slowly fell
below the green tree line.
Her eyes were flat
dreams traded in for an affluent
multi-level house in suburbia
with a doctor for a husband
that she’d never know
and two children cloned in Disneyland.
I hated her for it,
hated the way she looked at me
and saw someone else.
The trees turned a deeper
Spring-green
as the sun disappeared
but her eyes held none of the light.


For Rent

And then one day
Kim grew up, or moved on, or something;
and she no longer came out
for walks in the rain,
ice cream, candles and wine,
or long, hot showers
after salty-sweat, lip-biting nights
of agonizingly delicious sex.
And the part of me she lived in;
the space she had created
in the disorganized, sprawling, chaotic mess of me
was empty—
plants withered and brown
now that there was no one
to water them,
the tiger-striped cat
no longer coming ‘round for leftovers,
and the sun cold and cheerless
through the dirty, smudged windows.
She took me
and put me in a cardboard box—
a pile of letters, trinkets, and photos—
on a shelf in a closet,
Space For Rent.


The Lie

The lie, the betrayal
right there in the
poetry
of motion—“forever”—
half hidden with the flourish
of the pen
a little ink spilled
two lives split
ever to meet again?
They say
you can’t go
living in the past
but I do it every day.
The words came so easy then
I didn’t even have to try,
wanted so badly to touch her
just to make her smile.
And, it is not that the words
were so untrue
to speak of—
but how I pettily snatched them up
along with my trust and love
stomping away
leaving her to sift
through the pain, confusion, lonely and hurt
swirling in my wake.


Zen and the Art of Crayons

People are born with two innate items,
a coloring book and a 64 color box of crayons.
Throughout your life your coloring book
will fill up with pictures other people have colored
in you
and you will use your crayons
to color pictures in other people’s books.
Some people color inside the lines
and others are more prone to scribble and wiggle,
some like writing poetry, doodling, chain hearts
and purple grass
and some just write mean things
in angry black strokes.
But the choice
of who colors in your book
is yours
though there is no tragedy in life
greater than an uncolored coloring book
or an unopened box of crayons.
The penultimate experience of being human
is when you have trusted another
to color your life
and when you’ve been trusted
to color another’s.


A Small Piece of Fiction

The leaves crunched under our feet, red-orange and brittle, as we walked hand in hand through the park, our breath steaming up in the chill, crisp, afternoon air— his a large cloud and mine small. I took about four steps or so to his one.


The swings were empty and I picked one on the far let and climbed in it. He began to push me, slowly at first but in widening arcs. I could feel his arms through the chains, solid, strong, reassuring. From the top of the arc I imagined that I could see the whole world and that we would rule it, him and I. He stood back and watched as I slowly swung to a halt, still pumping with my legs, usually at the wrong time. I think he smiled.


When the swing finally creaked to a halt I jumped down and ran over to the slide. He was there waiting for me at the bottom as I slid down. Taking my hand, we walked over to the pond to feed the geese that had lingered late in traveling south.


“Why did grandpa have to die,” I asked, tossing a piece of hard bread into the water? For a moment he stared hard across the pond, off towards Clarendon Hills Dr., and for a moment I wished that I hadn’t of asked. But he looked at me and said slowly,


“When the fall comes, all things must travel south…”


“So he’ll be back in the spring,” excitedly, finishing his sentence? He continued to stare across the pond and then tousled my hair with a smile,


“He already is…he already is.”


I smiled at him, not knowing why, this stranger that I called dad.


Mr. Primetime

You don’t know me
And you don’t see
You only see what you want me to be
A bundle of insanity
Living in your mind
Tripped out on love
Telling you it’s alright
And when will we be free
And maybe then you’ll be me
Living in my head
That’s sleeping in your bed
Dreaming of you
And dreaming of me
You don’t see me
You see what you want to see
I’m just convenient
Physiology
Standing on this stage
Done up in lights
Tripped out on hate
Trying to kill the blight
Sell some cereal
And wear some jeans
Start the holy war
Load the magazines
What I think
Is what you do
And what I do
Is what you try
And without my talk show
You’d never make it through the night
You don’t know me
And I don’t care
You don’t see me
And I’m not there
When they called your name
You answered mine
And now you’re no one
Without my brand-name line
You don’t know me, you don’t see
You don’t even know
Who you’re supposed to be


Generation X pt. 2

Drums in the city,
sirens in the night,
and I sit caught in the blue light.
Guilty as promised,
guilty as found,
there’s so many ways they can drag you down.
There’s a tension in the air
a dis-ease in the ground
and through it all the tyger stripes are wound—
binding the wounds
that drips dark blood
binding the wounds
pooling in the dirty brown mud.
Razor the soul
cut the life
only left-brained rats and mice.
Don’t believe what you hear
don’t believe what you see
reality is controlled by the enemy.
Kill a generation
if you dare
electrocuted in the TV chair.
The time for vengeance
the time to attack
the sky is red and the sea is black.
Back to the jungle
back to the night
with tyger stripes black, we will fight
when degenerations dreams
into nightmares turn
and the innocence in orange flames burn
this unasked for war
we will win
retro-bution fore-fathers sins.
Tyger, tyger crouched in the night
damn the sirens
and don’t fear the light.
Guilty as promised,
guilty as found
don’t let the bastards drag you down.
With stripes of black
and eyes burning bright
we will claim the coming dawn—
our birthright.


Lost in America Looking for Intelligent Conversation

A mad, crazy SAT afternoon. Riding in the Boozer Cruiser to Citadel Mall to catch a flick— an elderly black lady waiting for the bus, some guy riding his bike down the street, people shopping for plants, and the trees and telephone poles whizzing by as Alice in Chains wails on the radio. It all smacks of a John Cougar video— little and pink houses or some crap like that— the everyday life, patriotism of heartland America in black and white.


It only reminds me that I don’t feel like I belong— lost in America, lost in the Universe, lost in myself…a hole somewhere in my soul that can’t be filled (or found). I long to lose myself in the arms of somebody who knows, who understands.


The gray superstructures, radar masts, and antennas rise against a red-orange setting sky as a bone-bleached full moon rises over Northwoods shopping mall, a modern day ziggurat, the great pyramid, the sarcophagus of a modern, decadent society raised on Capt. Kangaroo, the Cold War, Kentucky Bourbon, and unlimited credit. Chris says the revolution must come, and to me, his words ring empty and hollow. I say it won’t be a revolution but death— a rite of passage— to come. Tim says that if you keep shooting on goal, even the best goalie lets one by from time to time. So all we’ve got is effort and luck. I think Tim is the Buddha, but more…and less. Tim says he’s just Tim and that most the time he wishes he was sure.


I’m sitting in King Street Station trying to hide form the emptiness, drown it in booze and a crowd. But the place is dead for a SAT night; at least the band rocks. Madness all around I say: nobody tries to understand the road underneath the wheels, they just choke up and ride all the harder.


Jimi, Jim, Sid, Syd, and Cobain (what fucking idiots seriously compared Nirvana to the Sex Pistols? As if…) all lost the edge— if you’re going to love you have to hate and if you’re going to live you have to die.


I’d sit out on the beach on Isle of Palms and stare out at the sea, reporting contacts like I was underway— “two white lights and a red one on the horizon, relative bearing too-sevn-fife, left bearing, target angle one-niner-zero, outbound.,” and so on, could do it for hours, listening to the sound of the waves on the beach, sipping my drink. The sea is a harsh and loving mistress, to be cliché, stormy; and once you sleep with her you’ll never forget her, always hear her whisper in your ear.


And as I sit here scribbling madly away I feel the ache of emptiness as well as the laughter of absurdity— where do you draw the line, how do you draw the line, and why even bother?


Division Bell

The division bell
is ringing
in the spaces in between
and all must answer up
or be left behind
forever.
The times are changing
a new day yawning
and what dreams lie there within
as we wake up stretching
from the dreams of yesterday?




Cruel, Cruel Summer

Trapped in this cage of mine-d
and I wonder
who will set me free?
Rastafari
grows lean and hungry
longing for the smell
of free determination and will.
Caged I may be
by a 4000 mile gravity well
but a prisoner
they’ll not make me still.



It Was On the News

True wisdom—in a grain of salt
the way—expounded daily by Bugs Bunny
and I once saw
the mysteries of the Universe
in a tennis shoe commercial.
The door—
a microdot in eighths
or anyway you like.
The slithy toves in the wabbe
do not play dice with the Universe
And Danny must see the ball
be the ball—the future—
to use The Force.
We killed like champions
so kiss a little longer
‘cause-ality god is dead
and Schrödinger’s rat
surfed the probability waves
escaping the tötung box
through the strange loop in the paradox.
Collapse the wave
anyway you like
but remember,
it’s all in your head
and true wisdom,
true knowledge
is knowing that
you know less
than most people think
they do.



Sub-Genius

And you want to write for them,
seek approval in their eyes
sub-genius
and yet,
you write only for themselves
an idiot
thinking a smile
for friendship
and understanding
but who can
understand
but those who’ve walked the way?
When ignorance reigns king
you walk the shadows—
beware of bitches
with Betty Crocker wisdom!



Chinatown

Drinking in my car
with my Roman Polanski sunglasses
on;
we all go to Chinatown sometimes.



Insert Your Name Here

A cat is a cat is a cat, whatever that might actually be (and for the sake of argument, we’ll call it a cat and assume it is the same).


Cats in general, at least as far as I’m aware, do not worry about being cats or crossing the line and being dogs. They just are, they do what cats do…and sleep a lot.


A insert your name here is an insert your name here is an insert your name here (as far as I know). But insert your name here worries about not being a insert your name here, or better yet, not do-ing an insert your name here. And, if the facts were just plainly stated, a lot of the time insert your name here isn’t even sure what a insert your name here is or does. It sounds preposterous, I know; frustrating, fucking frustrating. I know of no dilemma that has the potential to cause greater suffering or produce a higher truth or beauty.



Michigan

Low-hanging, gray clouds
over an endless green expanse
of sad—
Michigan
was my Trail of Tears.



The Perfect Day

Woke up late, just in time for the end of brunch— a scrambled egg and cheese sandwich on toasted white, no wheat left.


Finished reading Gun with Occasional Music and rolled out of my rack around 1400. It was bright outside, terribly so and my Raybans were in the Jeep, a good five-hundred feet away. Somehow I made it.


It was the most perfect February day you could ask for. Sunny, not a cloud in the sky, low to mid 70’s with a slight breeze. Perfect. The whole goddamned world was perfect: people picnicking in the park, walking, rolling, skating, biking down the Battery and Market Street; hell, you couldn’t even find a parking place. Ski boats, powerboats, fishing boats, sail boats, even the seagulls seemed to realize the perfectness of the day as they wheeled and dipped over the blue swells. A perfect day in Charleston.


The thing that hurt my head worse than the sun was that it was a perfect day, a perfect day and I had nothing more to do than drink, nowhere to be, nowhere to go, no one waiting patiently for me at some outside table on Market Street with a slowly warming gin and tonic. A whole world on a perfect day and it was as empty as my agenda.


I’ve spent so much time alone in my world that when things slow down an uneasy calm-quiet blankets everything, a certain unbearable hollowness and suddenly everything seems lonely and empty with everybody having some meaning, some purpose, some reason except for me.


I felt strangely out of place, like everything had shifted two inches to the left, or maybe the right, doesn’t really matter; only that everyone else made the jump but me. I never seem to get the memo.


Parked along the Ashley River on the Battery, drinking bourbon out of a McDonald’s cup, listening to Jimmy Buffet and scribbling away here in my journal…how did I get to be so lonely…on this perfect day?


Sunset—the Battery

Cool Blue
burning Orange
cloaked by angel clouds
of White—
the sun slowly sank
beneath the
Green Palmetto fronds
wading in the muddy Brown
Ashley River.



Lines

Storm clouds above my head
Goddamned-grey-funk
Thunder and lightning
Evil spirits and bad ju-ju’s
Problems
Dilemmas
The mighty machine
Screeches to a halt—
Brain lock—
Somewhere the idea
The thought, the kernel
Got lost in the words
And I find myself again
Talking in circles
That even I hardly
Understand
Comprehend
the way that can be told
is not the way…
he who talks
doesn’t know
he who knows
doesn’t talk
Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!
The frustration makes me nuts
I am not Jesus
I am not Buddha
Let them save themselves
If so inclined
But how to convey
A full pearl moon
On a bed of clouds
Love that not even
Death can deny?
I am at a loss for words.


Damn

I been smart
enough
ingenious
enough
to assemble
now
around me
the pieces, cast, and scenery
of my own, personal
Hell.
See me
revel in
my misery.



Eyes

My eyes scare me.
They have that
hard, haunted look,
so haunted.
I don’t think
that others can see it,
I can fool them;
But I can’t fool myself.
I see.
I know.



The Old Man States the Obvious

Not long before the Turner was decommissioned, the CNO, Admiral Boorda, visited the ship to acknowledge the work she had done as the test platform for the LEAP program.


I should probably say a quick word about Admiral Boorda. He joined the Navy as an enlisted E1d, the lowest rank possible, and rose through the ranks to eventually be the highest-ranking officer in the Navy. He was a sailor’s sailor and the enlisted never had a better friend. In a world that had largely become political, he never lost sight of his sailors and they were always his first and last concern. He was the kind of officer you would follow into hell in a leaky rowboat with a squirt gun filled with gasoline. To this day, I refuse to believe that he committed suicide but was murdered in some bizarre and twisted plot.


We had spent a week doing what we did best, painting, (and complaining) in preparation for his arrival. On the day of the show, the crew was lined up in formation all around the damn ship and Adm. Boorda met, said a few words to, and shook every man’s hand that was present. He wanted to thank us, a bunch of drunk no-bodies with generally poor attitudes. Just amazing. For a little bit we all felt like we really mattered and walked around standing a little taller.


Anyway, I was back on the fantail and BM3 Yu Li was standing to my left. BM3 Li was a Chinese national and was in the US Navy through some exchange program. I could tell you a few funny stories about old Li, who had the rack across from mine, but that will have to come at a later time.


The Captain and Adm. Boorda step in front of me and the captain introduced me. I had banged up my hand earlier trying to pry off the covers for the flight deck lights to pain them and had it bandaged. Adm. Boorda asked about my hand and how I was doing, asking me to be careful and take care of myself. I saluted and then they were stepping to the left, in front of BM3 Li. The Captain pipes up,


“This is BM3 Li.” And then helpfully, “He’s Chinese.”


Not a second passed as Adm. Boorda snapped back,


“I can fucking see that!” The captain said nothing.


I have no clue what Adm. Boorda then said to Li after that as I was doing my goddamndest to not double over and piss myself laughing for about the next five minutes. I’m pretty certain that a few of the junior officers with the group snickered.


They just don’t make them like that anymore.



Eulogy for the USS Richmond K. Turner (CG-20)

The wind whipped the clouds low and ragged beneath the full silverfish moon. Hurricane Gordon slowly spun to the east of Charleston, emptying the base of all but the most resolute. And even the Sports Bar is quiet tonight, the cage closed where they usually carefully check IDs, along with Puzzle’s— the country western half of the place. Things are starting to wind down on base. You can feel it, like a giant beast slowly dying, gasping, tax money slowly seeping out the gates and pooling in the muddy Cooper River.


Lisa-Lisa is still pouring drinks behind the brown Formica bar top but Bennett, Lloyd, and Greggory— the greats— are all gone and the NHL is still on strike. Maybe you really can’t go back to yesterday.


And all that this can portend is that the mighty mighty Turner is slowly dying also; wallowing in the blue-gray swells as the black rain runs down her haze-gray flanks. And one by one, we will slowly disappear into the cold December steam; smiles, tears, and goodbyes slowly fading away into the melancholic cries of the gulls. They were here before. They will be here after. They know the ways and means of strange friendships. They will look after her.


We all came together under auspicious conditions and we will leave a little more for it— Patriot, Hero, Drunk, Villain, Average Guy: the quintessential Breakfast Club. Don’t you forget about me.


*****

And one by one they’ve slipped away: down the pier, through the gates, and outta my memory like dreams fading with the sun. Sometimes you don’t even notice that they are gone until you see someone who looks like them and realize that they are no longer around— 400 plus bled down to under a hundred. The Turner is slowly dying, disappearing into the afterlife of memory…nightmares for some.


And somehow, it’s ironic, fitting maybe, that one pier over, Zulu, DDG 60 is being commissioned for the first time, born— having cruised down to Charleston for that very purpose. A transfusion of life, memories, knowledge, heroes, and heartache from the old to the new—


Good times and riches and son of a bitches I’ve seen more than I can recall…”


And they’ll never truly be gone as long as someone remembers. I see them sometimes, in the mirror behind the bar, drinking with me. And magically, we’re back in Alicante— lost and drunk as hell, trying to remember where we parked our ship, or France, Italy, Cuba, Puerto Rico— the crazy, sultry nights run together like a rum-colored montage.


Sometimes, I feel like a ghost myself. A memory written in someone else’s mind with the unforgettable ink of shared booze and tears— “son of a son of a sailor…”



RKT…Departing

The names have been named
the players played
the scenes seen
and the last lines
yelled at the top of your lungs.
Strange times brought us
together
and stranger still pull
us apart.
So one last round
to the crazy madness
of it all
before the stage lights dim
and the last curtains fall.


It’s a love/hate thing, like an addiction. You can’t wait, you pray to get off the ship, but you don’t realize until you do, how much you miss it, need it, love it. And when you’re off, you can never go back.

*****

It was the first place where I left a part of myself behind. Not because it had been torn from me by unfinished business, but because I loved the place and cared terribly about it…a part of me would always be there to watch over it and keep it company.


Picture taken 1825 Romeo 01JUN95, right before I drove off pier Mike and out the main gate for the last time. Headed up to Dam Neck, VA, NMITC, and IS A-school.



Would

Should my darkness prevail
and I could no longer see
would you come
come over the mountains
over the Sea
to my side to rescue me?
And if I should build a castle keep
with walls of rock, hard and steep
would you rain like a river
and swell like the Sea
over my walls
to drown in me?
Or if I should fall
from grace of God
lose my way and stumble long
into a desert of Death
a desert of lies
would you give it all
to be by my side?
If I should forget
would you still believe
remember the way
it used to be;
cry like the rain
howl like a storm
come over the mountains
over the Sea
to touch me once more
and rescue me?



Final Gift and then Rest

They sank the Turner off the coast of Puerto Rico in early August of 1998. The Navy conducted several studies by detonating explosives similar in nature to enemy ASCMs on and within the hull which will allow them to improve on the defensive designs of new ships. It also gave sailors and pilots of the USS Enterprise Battle Group valuable live-fire experience. The Turner’s last gift in dying was to provide information and training that will protect and save the lives of sailors in the future. True devotion.


It still brings tears to my eyes. It’s hard to explain a love for a thing. But in reality, for anyone who has lived on a ship, trusted your life to it, it is not a thing and in fact is more real, more immediate than many people you will meet.


Fair winds and following seas…



Thursday, July 3, 2008

Chapter III.3

Lost and Adrift on a Clear Blue Sea




Mankind owns four things

That are no good at sea—

Rudder, anchor, oars,

And the fear of going down.


— Antonio Machado


Thoughts on a Rainy Evening in the Adriatic

Forty-five miles seemed like fifteen through the binoculars, even with the clouds and the rain. Another flare went up and tracers floated lazily towards the sky. I lowered the binoculars to rest my eyes and shivered, ducking behind the break of the bridge wing.


We were cruising through the Adriatic at a leisurely three knots and patches of stars appeared overhead though breaks in the clouds as Serbs and Croats killed each other forty-five miles away in the harsh white light of the flares for reasons that no one understood, least of all me.


The country music throbbed in my head in a mysterious way that couldn’t be ignored, probably helped out by the gin and tonics. Townsend was drunk and I couldn’t remember the Greek dude who had said that everything was fire. Looked like it was going to be one of those nights.


The officer of the deck came out and took a bearing on the firefight with the Alidade, “At least we’re keeping their planes from flying,” he said.


“Yeah,” I thought, “so we can prolong the killing spree. Why not just let them get it over with and go about their business? If people want to kill each other, what business is it of ours?”


“What are you doing, writing a letter to your girlfriend?” The music hadn’t let up and I turned around to look at a long, blond-haired, blue-eyed, smiling face that hadn’t lost all the baby fat yet.


“No,” I replied, “about being in the Adriatic.”


“Oh,” she said, above the music, trying to reach back to high school, which wasn’t that long ago, with a puzzled look, and remember what an Adriatic was. “Isn’t that up by the North Pole?” she finally asked.


“No. North of the Med between Italy and Yugoslavia, or at least what used to be Yugoslavia.


“Oh.” Large smile, “What’s going on there?”


I paused, really looking at her for the first time, wondering what to say. I stubbed out my clove and looked away, “People are killing each other for no good reason.”


“What?” she asked, my voice drowned out by some asshole with friends in low places.


“Nothing,” I said, walking away without looking back.


Forty-five miles looked like fifteen though the binoculars, even through the clouds and rain and flares and tracers floating lazily though the sky as men with patriotism, god, and hate in their hearts killed each other under angry skies. At least I’d sleep in a warm rack after my watch was over.


The Young Man and the Sea

A man makes many trips to the Sea over a lifetime;
it is the symbol of the primordial being,
the Oneness of the Universe.
And, after drinking from it
he can, for a while, feel whole—
one.
But he will always hear its call if he stays away too long.

A man journeys to the Ocean
for the same reasons he seeks a solace in a woman’s arms—
it is the place he was born and the only place
he can lose himself completely,
if only for a while.


Introductions and Revelations

I flew out to Signonella, Sicily to meet my ship, which was already in the Adriatic. As we circled over NAVSTA 1 I looked out the window, having been lucky enough to get an emergency-aisle window seat for the flight. It was brown and looked remarkably like southern California in the summertime. I briefly toyed with the idea that that was actually where we were. I spent about two weeks there; waiting, working with the Sea Bees, getting paid, and collecting per diem; not a bad gig.


They initially put me and some other guys up at a hotel in town because the BEQ was full. Of course the first thing I did upon getting to my room was turn on the TV. They were showing reruns of Hill Street Blues; dubbed in what I guess was Sicilian. It was a little surreal and I wasn’t sure who they were rooting for, the cops or the crooks. Later I moved into the BEQ with a couple of engineers who were also going to the ship.


Working with the Sea Bees I usually got off around 1300 or so everyday. At some point in the afternoon the BBC would show a musical adaptation of some kids’ story. The only one that sticks out in my mind and still creeps the living hell out of me to this day was Christopher Walken playing Puss in Boots. I would rather watch Jacob’s Ladder and The Wall back to back, on bad acid, than see that again.


Anyway, one evening I was sitting on some aluminum bleachers next to the track after running a couple of miles. I was just sitting there looking at Mount Etna and the thought hits me that I have three and a half more years of this, whether I liked it or not. To that point, I hadn’t, and had a pretty negative attitude about everything and the Navy in particular. With that thought came the realization that the only difference between the next three and a half years being complete shit or a good time was me. It was one of those things that should be so stupidly obvious that it often isn’t. Right there I decided that I was going to take the Navy for as much as I could— training, experiences, good times, you name it. I was going to screw them out of more than they could screw me out of. Maybe not an ideal relationship but at least it was based in reality and on a clear understanding; definitely an improvement over the old one.


Not long after that and the Fourth of July (damn you Sea Bees and your homemade wine- Paquino Vino) I flew up to Trieste and boarded what was to be my home for the next two years, the USS Richmond K. Turner, CG-20.


The Bianco

A slight sultry breeze
blowing in the stars
and candles by the pool.
An empty bottle of wine at my table
and an Italian couple talking over Pavarotti
at the next.
I wish there were someone else here
to share it with;
then I’d be only
half as drunk
and twice as amused.


Fields of Gold

Standing on the threshold
of music and thought.
The penmanship
to capture the moment
I sadly lack
and so the heart runs free
and unfettered
bathed in the soothing melodies
of its own shadow
as I stand
enraptured in the glory
wishing I could transcen
mind and miles
to share it with
that someone
special—
to disappear
into a song
so sweet it makes your heart ache
willing me back
across the waves
to the people
I love.


The ocean is huge. It sounds ridiculous to say as such, but until you have experienced it, from somewhere resembling the middle, you have no idea just how true it is. I’ve seen it when it really was like glass, not a wave or ripple to mar the surface as far as you can see and it looks like you can walk all the way to that place where your dreams will come true, just over the horizon. The words are there, right in front of you, but they just don’t convey the experience.


BM3 Sal
That fucker, a dead on take for Putty from Seinfeld, only dumber…and meaner. This guy was about the laziest meathead the Navy ever saw. If he found a piece of garbage on the fantail, he would walk up to the foc’le to get someone to walk back with him to pick it up- a worthless fuck if ever there was one. When I reported to the Turner, almost everyone in Deck (OD) was wearing their dress shoes with their coveralls. Being a “boot” I asked what the hell was up. Seems Sal was in charge of berthing for the XO’s inspection of berthing and messing the day that the Turner was pulling out of port with Deck Division in their dress uniforms on deck. Sal, being the guy that he was, gear-adrifted everyone’s boots and boondockers and promptly float tested them over the side.


BM1 R. was banned from running any of the small boats, run a few too many into the side of the ship. He spent a great deal of time up in the boatswain’s locker writing pornography on the OD Division computer. Sadly, it was more a great source of amusement to us than erotic. Apparently it floated his boat though.


Untitled (Fort of Lost Souls)

And one night
I scaled the Fort of Lost Souls
to drink gin
and watch the stars dance in the Sea.


Pelicans

Pelicans swung lazy circles
over the choppy bay that night,
long beaks
ominously slung low—
20mm mini-guns
in C-47 gunships
over the Mekong Delta.


Midwatch

The stars slowly drifted by
under the black surface-search radar,
Morrison’s happy Jamaican accent
buzzing in my ear
as he talked to the port lookout.
The breeze was slight
and peaceful
as we cut through the Mediterranean
at a leisurely three knots.
To the west the afterglow was finally fading;
the Milky Way slowly coming out—
a translucent arch
cutting the sky in half.
Memories of old friends and places
haunted my head,
drifting by like the smooth swells,
lapping at the edges of my mind.
On the horizon
the blinking red strobe of an Italian P-3 Orion
flashed in the darkness as it banked right,
hunting for submarines.
Tipton brought out a cup of coffee,
the steam curling up around my face.
The warmth
was reassuring in my hands.


Even though I hated getting up for them like hell, the mid and rev watches were by far my favorites. The glow of the red lights on the bridge and the hushed voices, half hidden in the shadows, the aroma of warm “piping hot” curling up around your nose, other hand on the helm, the orange glow of the alidade as you took bearings to lights on the horizon— that dead time in between the waking hours. The nights were darker and the stars brighter than anywhere else I’ve been in the world. Sitting on aft-lookout, watching the wake trailing out behind the ship in the glow of the aft-running light, the OS’s voices buzzing gently in your ears through the sound-powered phones— when people think of that place they’d rather be then all others, well that is one of mine.


Lone Reader of the Apocalypse

I used to read
from the book of Revelations
on the midwatch
squinting with a red-lens’d
flashlight,
voice scratchy and distant
in the sound-powered phones.
I’dve also read from Daniel
if the O.T. had been included
in the little camo bibles
the chaplain handed out
with the condoms
when you went ashore
on liberty.
For some reason,
the Apocalypse
seemed so much more horrifying
in the wee dark genesis hours
of the early morning
in the middle
of the world’s wettest desert.


Some Thoughts on a Drunk Afternoon

Hood’s: It’s been a while since I’ve written. Sitting here with a Bacardi and 7-Up (boo), Hood, Paine, Larkin, and Thorsen passed out on the floor; Townsend upstairs talking to Thorsen’s girlfriend, and I don’t know where Micky-Reed is— everybody just kind’ve here but not really.


It strikes me how much we are like the X-Men in that same dark way. We stand on the edge of something and risk our lives for I don’t know what and all the time we try to pretend that we’re no different and nothing’s changed; we go on keeping it inside and lying to ourselves.


Other people don’t understand us unless they’ve been there and most the time I don’t think that we even understand ourselves— we’re all in the dark stumbling after will ‘o wisps trying to find something to hold on to, not even finding each other.


Sometimes you hate the rest of society (parents, friends, loved ones) for not understanding, most the time you hate the system for everything and yourself for even being there and sometimes you just feel like fading away and disappearing over the high side— drowning yourself in alcohol, sex, drugs, whatever, just falling into the shadows and not coming back.


It probably sounds escapist and the military is not entirely to blame really— everybody shouts questions into the great unknown and hears only silence, but the military tends to increase the frequency of the shouting and the magnitude of the silence. We all come away from it wiser but emptier, having grown but found more questions than we did answers.


It takes a strange breed to go on like that, chasing the dark, and I don’t even like or respect most of them. But in the end, there isn’t a one of them I wouldn’t die for if it came down to that, just because they were there and that makes all the difference.


The Tower at San Tropez

We moved with an uncanny ease
into the night
Sabertooth and I.
Each puddle of streetlight
a sanctuary
we did not
want
the gray clouds
racing low overhead
a subtle kind of
Winter’s insanity
that bent the mind
and stole your tears…
one by one.
And somewhere along the way
to San Tropez
the difference between Life
and Death
blood and breath
melted with the
dirty brown snow
beneath our feet—
(the road goes on forever)


Pierre Namuriel

The haze-gray hulks
sat sullenly
against a blue Atlantic sky
bows pointing seaward
bridge windows staring vacantly
across the rolling green expanse
to another world
another time.
A seagull
wheeled overhead
drifting in the heat
testing the heavy, humid spring breezes
with outstretched wingtips;
and in a small park
on the French Riviera
an unknown guitarist
is setting up his
two speakers and waa-waa pedals
getting ready
for another night
of prostituting his heart
and soul (love)
for the passing rich
who will stop for a moment
as a tune catches
a childhood memory
and spins it in the light.
But the music sails this way
across the sea
carried on shinning ships
of setting sun
a millions miles away…
I stop
things forgotten
resurfacing
carried by an inner tide
and for a moment
the air shimmers and sparkles
the ships move
alive
and I am somewhere
very far away
from Charleston, South Carolina
sitting in the grass
under a tree by
a small fountain
soaking in the chords
like the sun
with closed eyes
swaying gently
to a musical breeze
that blows through the soul.


Bad Company

Remember…
when all has set
and faded away
there still remains the one thing that matters!!
Tonight I walked,
there was trees—
trees that took me into a darkness,
a darkness that was like heaven—
that people think about
when they think or are walking—
beautiful palms
I think there were ferns.
And there I laid my head to rest,
in the forest of forgetfulness.
Tonight I have seen women beautiful and wanton
and I wonder
if any of them, if anybody
understands me.
And the dance floor whirls about
just so.
I feel sorry for the dancers?
How much is sincere,
how much fake?
Left on the dance floor
I don’t really know
‘cause I’d take anyone of them
and run away forever.
But I guess that just makes me
Bad Company,
Crazy Drunk,
so…that’s how it is.


Why OBAs Suck: Musings After a Day of FF Training

Two or three weeks ago I went to Shipboard Firefighting Training for the first time. After half a day of classroom refresher we went out to the firefighting field were we would be fighting two fires: a class alpha and a class bravo. I was an auxiliary hoseman on hose #2 so I didn’t even go into the bunker/space for the first fire. Larkin was on the hose in front of me.


Actually though, I’m getting ahead of myself. We began by standing on a line with all our gear in front of us. We were then timed in putting it on and checked for errors; five minutes or less was the target with investigators in three. The firefighting ensemble (FFE) consists of one fire-retardant snowmobile-looking suit, rubber steel-shanked boots, flash hood, gloves, OBA pack and face piece, and helmet. I was dressed out in three and a half to four minutes, no biggie. They checked us for hits and I was squared away. We then proceeded over to our hoses, busted them out and hooked them up, and then lit off our OBAs. I had put the damn things on before but had never actually had to use one. The oxygen was alright and cool, no problem.


Hose-team #2 sat outside while team #1 put out the first fire and then we moved into position to attack the second one— this is where things started going bad, at least for me.


The bunker in which they lit the fire for us to fight was concrete and you had to go up two or three steel steps to get to the entrance WTD and then stairs went down some six feet or so into the bunker. I was standing at the bottom of the steps outside, tending the hose, not even in the space, when the hose kinked up behind me. I made the mistake of slow-jogging down to the kink to straighten it out and then back to my spot behind Larkin as we moved up the steps to the door.


All the shit I was wearing was heavy and very hot and the hose was heavy and suddenly I found myself with less oxygen than my body wanted, a lot less— the jogging had been a very bad idea. I stood there hyperventilating, trying to get a full breath, sucking rubber, the hyperventilating only making the whole thing worse. I wondered if I was getting any oxygen at all. The OBA is not a demand-regulated system like a SCUBA unit but produces oxygen at a standard, consistent rate, regardless of how much you might need; and if you need more than it’s producing you are just shit outta luck.


I started to panic. I wanted to run away from the fire and the hose and rip my face piece off so I could breath but the thought of the embarrassment of falling out and not even being near the fucking fire kept me from doing it. I’d like to think that it was discipline but I was acutely aware of hose-team #1 watching us and the fear of embarrassment was greater than my panic and fear of suffocating. I was really struggling to stay rational. My eyes were huge with terror and I stared at some dude on the steps, I don’t know who, probably an instructor, hoping that he’d help me out— no such luck.


Somehow I managed to get my breathing under control and moved up to just inside the door where the on scene leader stopped me and told me to stay there— thank god. At that point I wasn’t really interested in getting any nearer the fire. I managed to catch my breath, watching the rest of the team spraying the flames everywhere with water. A couple minutes later I had to move the hose again and it all started all over again but this time I was able to calm myself down a little quicker. And then we were done, I had survived.


Until that day I’d never known what honest-to-god, full-blown panic felt like. I can’t say that it was something that I enjoyed though it was one of the newest, most virgin experiences I’ve had in the Navy. I mean, no matter how strange, everything I’d done was vaguely similar to something I’d already done, but full-on physical panic, nothing comes close or will prepare you for it. And as soon as it was over I wanted to talk about it ‘cause I’d never experienced anything like it.


You want to make a man panic, fuck with his oxygen. OBAs suck.


How I Came to be Doing Certain Illegal Things in the Caribbean

The Owl and the Pussycat
sailed Caribbean way
for a moment and a day
in a beautiful haze-gray rust bucket.
They took some flack jackets,
plenty of bullets,
and some Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
They dined on the most vile
and disgusting Sea fare
and two percent lean ground beef
then threw it back up
on an empty stomach
and wiped their mouths on their cuffs
their cuffs,
then wiped their mouths on their cuffs.
The Owl gazed at a star
and strummed a small guitar
and sang with a voice most concerned,
“Oh Pussy my dear,
my charts are not here
how I wish I knew where we are
we are
how I wish I knew where we are.”
They drifted astray
and ran aground one day
in the land where the marijuana trees grow
and there in the woods
the natives all stood
with rings in their tits and their noses
their noses
with rings in their tits and their noses.
They stamped about
and hooted and hollered
and chanted political slogans:
“You pussy so foul
you damndable owl
we think we shall have you for chow
for chow
we think we shall have you for chow.”
Pussy was quite frightened
and shivered and shook
and gave a terrible sigh
but the Owl said, “Don’t fear
for this my dear
we have an adequate weapon
a weapon
for this we have an adequate weapon.”
So they loaded their boat
with all the rum they could carry
and sailed for Washington D.C.
where they asked the president
who never inhaled
to cut off their economic aid
their aid
to cut of their economic aid.
“They’re communist,
and fascist,
a global threat
and generally very ill tempered.
Oh please do something
won’t you please do something please?”
the Owl and the Pussycat whimpered.
“I’ll bomb them by god
and napalm them too
and hit them with every plague.
And to top it all off,
I won’t let them enlist
unless they can prove that their gay
their gay
unless they can prove that their gay.”
“Oh president my dear,”
the Pussy did cry,
“what a president you are.
Your name will go down in history.
But we must be right off
to plan the air strikes
and then we’ll hit Panama City
city
and then we’ll hit Panama City.”
The S.A.C. bombers took off
while the natives smoked
smoked up their marijuana.
But the bombs did rain
with a terrible scream
and now all that’s left are iguanas
iguanas
now all that’s left are iguanas.
Now there’s a lesson in this
though I sometimes forget,
you see, it’s a short term memory thing
that comes from plants
and chemical groups
the government says you ought not be liking
liking
the government says you ought not be liking.
So when Uncle Sam comes a-knocking
with freedom of speech
and the right of self-determination
you’d better right say,
“I’m sorry, not today,
you see, I can’t afford the installation
the installation
you see, I can’t afford the installation.


Contrary to what you might believe, this last poem is not recounting my drug exploits in the Caribbean—sadly or otherwise, there are none to recount— but something similar but different. We had been back in Charleston from our six-month deployment only a month when word came down the pike that the Old Man had volunteered us all to get back underway for counter-narc ops in the Caribbean. As you might imagine, this did not sit too well with the rest of the crew, who were suddenly quite irate to be included in any scheme the old man came up with in order to try to secure himself a star, especially so soon after the cruise and during the holidays. I dealt with the whole thing the best I could by buying a Penn rod and reel, as much 80lb test line as I could fit on the spool (a 3 ought), some lures, and the Jimmy Buffet boxed set. I wrote the original version about oh five hundred while on starboard lookout, squinting in the dark and scribbling in my green wheel book with a dull pencil. I just could not understand where we received the right to interdict other ships that were in international waters; regardless of the flag we were flying (Navy or Coastie). To this day I still don’t. By the way, Coastie intel is the worst I’ve ever seen. We spent about three months total down there over several trips and all we had to show for it was the fish I almost landed but lost because we sped up to chase another boat with no drugs on board.


Strange Time in Port and Out

We pulled pierside in Charleston, once again, and everyone scurried off the ship as fast as they could, like rats abandoning a sinking ship. You could smell Charleston seven miles out, at least.


And once again, it seems like we’ve been away forever, though only half a day. One of these days maybe I’ll figure out why time is so screwy underway. Almost immediately I find myself slipping into that same in-port-Charleston routine— a subtle kind of winter insanity…I think I’m dying here. A comfortable dis-ease, if I stop moving, hesitate, I’ll freeze up and sink like a rock.


Pulling in Late on a Snowy January Night

It’s snowing up topside; little specks of gray-white whipped willy-nilly by the cutting wind. It’s late, 2230, and we’re pulling into Charleston, home. You can see the lights off in the distance, some eight miles away; fuzzy, white-orange and red, blinking radio towers. When visible, the stars are still bright and crisp, Orion briefly hanging overhead, belt cinched up and bow held tightly, then disappearing behind the clouds again.


The two tugs pull up alongside, one on each side, about thirty feet off each beam. Deep, sandy, red, varnished wood sides— the Robert and Christopher B. Turacamo— chug quietly alongside us, there wakes intermingling with ours. It’s reassuring to have them here, in case anything goes wrong. We’re not even to the break yet and they usually don’t hook up with us until we’re about two miles up the Cooper River. But they came all the way out tonight ‘cause it’s late and cold and I feel a little warmer, safer.


The sea is a funny/strange place and the people who travel her little funnier maybe. But there’s a bond between those kind of men, because deep down we all know that the sea is nobody’s friend and if she decides to prove that to you on a cold January night your only friend may be some stranger who’s “funny” enough to leave the warmth of his home and family to meet you beyond the break so that you can get home too.


I don’t know how to put it into words and I’m not even sure if you can. But anyone who’s spent time on the Big Pond will know what I mean and I guess I’ll have to let it go at that.


An hour and a half later the bridge passed the word, “Over all lines,” and we began to feed out line one, a six inch diameter, synthetic monster. Amid the calls, yelling, and squeaking of the line as tension began to be applied, faceless, unknown seamen ran to cast the two, now forgotten, tugs off; and they slowly chugged off, disappearing back into the cold and dark— angels on the water— until next time.


Dream Time

Roughly a month till Christmas
and it doesn’t seem like it,
feel like it;
even Charleston feels out of reach.
The Sea has its own time
plays with it
and the days all melt into each other
like a sticky candy bar
dropped on the sidewalk.
And their neither was
nor wasn’t
a time before being at Sea
and there will
and won’t be
a time after it.
At night,
you dream about Charleston
and everything back there.
But when you awake,
that’s all they are—
dreams.
But mostly,
you just dream about the Sea
with its wet, blue lapping swells
and try to remember
if it’s yesterday
or tomorrow.


Christmas Arrival

The sky was low and gray, cold, threatening rain as we pulled up the Charleston River. Seagulls dipped and dived in front of us; there were no dolphins. The tugs pushed us alongside Pier November as the wives, relatives, and kids sang Christmas carols outside the gate.


Larkin shouted, “Up behind,” and we gave as mighty yell as we rushed up with line one in hand. We bird-nested the line around the bits and then went below to change out of our blues to frap and rat the lines on the pier. And then we all disappeared, “Merry Christmas’s” and “happy holidays” echoing hollowly and fading as we melted into the mist until there was nothing left but the seagulls, huddled together around the brow in the piss-cold rain.


Lloyd and I would spend Christmas night drinking malt liquor and Mad Dog out of brown paper bags in the bus stop just outside the main gate after the MPs ran us out of the base park. Later I would throw up in the garbage can in the berthing; the holidays aboard a ship.


December Sea

And even the wind seems old
the breeze chill
and the Ocean creaks with age
at each rolling swell.
Autumn.
The horizon furthers off
my legs weary quickly
as the waves burn
a fiery-orange-red
I find my thoughts turning to
hot chocolate and cheery fireplaces…
Autumn into winter
Winter into me.


Brer Seaman Outsmarts Duty OPS

It was always easy to get screwed, even for things that weren’t your fault.


It was a duty day during Christmas stand-down; after evening colors. Only the duty section was left in berthing as everyone else was on leave or out getting drunk, per the plan of the day. At this point, we were heavily invested in Mortal Kombat II on the Sega Genesis when the duty OPS, some uppity OS, sidles down to tell us we need to wax our P-ways. He has got to be fucking kidding, as there were already eight whole hours in the day that we could have been doing this, as we weren’t doing much else, being stand-down and all.


The main deck of the Turner had two P-way’s running port and starboard the entire length of the ship. Just fore of the forward missile house, a short P-way connect the two. The forward portion of the port and starboard P-ways were the responsibility of OD division with the connector belonging to the gunners mates (GMs).


The GMs, who never did a fucking thing aboard ship, except rotate the forward magazines when we were trying to sleep, had about the shiniest P-way on the boat. Did they think we were going to bring ours up to par with theirs? Let’s not even talk foot traffic at this point.


Hopping mad at this bullshit, I quickly hit on how to solve this problem with the least amount of effort and directed another seaman to fill up a mop bucket with hot water while I ran up to the Bosn’s Locker for some stripper (not a stripper). We quickly proceeded to run hot water and wax stripper all over the GM’s P-way before shortly returning to Mortal Kombat II and TBS’s Christmas marathon of a Christmas Story. Although we hadn’t touched our P-ways, it looked just as good as the GM’s and there was peace in the world.


I learned that stand-down evening that the truth is all about perception.


Killer Angels

The sun beat down
my mind an evaporating
drop of dew
in a saltwater wasteland of souls.
The Angels,
beautiful and terrible to behold
stood on the foc’le
and bragged about last nights whores
as the fool moon
fell on balmy tropical breezes.
America’s Cattle Bruiser—
five hundred and thirty-five feet of iron-shod,
steel-riveted, steam-driven
missile-toten’ hell;
the free world’s last bastion of hope…
or so we said.
We rode the night,
all of them,
peering through the red-tinted gloom,
eyes mad
with rampant alcoholism and hatred
for our self-imposed
exile,
home, and friends.
We cursed the darkness in ourselves
with gnashing teeth
the uncertainty inside
eating into our sleepless days and nights.
But mostly
we cursed the ‘Old Man’—
a senile Satan
in his floating hell.
Angels of Death
Death of Angels
we raised anchor once again
that morning
and headed into the rising sun
we preyed so desperately to see
on the other side
of tomorrow.

*****

There was no CNN, satellite TV, Sirius radio, email or anything on the Turner that would be on later ships. When you got underway and whatever land you were leaving disappeared over the horizon behind you, the rest of the world fell away with it and you slipped into a place of no time where the days all melted into one. But you always knew when it was Wednesday and Thursday. Every Wednesday they served rollers and sliders for lunch, so you knew it was Wednesday. The next day, you could remember that yesterday was Wednesday so it must be Thursday. After that it was back into the seamless, dayless days of routine life on a ship at sea.


Sailing the Abyss

You worked with men who understood
something about isolation—
because in one way or another
every man on the ship
was alone.
The Ocean
was a daily reminder
of just how cut off you were.
I think the only men
who could possibly feel more alone
are astronauts.
There was a freedom
in that isolation though,
a falling away
of the countless minutia
that made up a life,
an existence on land.
The act of “Taking in all lines”
was a cleansing, a purifying
of the soul
that was in essence, a rebirth,
the crossing of a threshold
into a place where the silent Sea
was at once
your antagonist, savior, confessor, and dreamer
and the Ship was that Great Mother
that Safety and Assurance
that held you securely

in the eye of the Tempest,
in the darkness of the Void.


I’ve figured out (after only one week) that the enlisted man’s job is to be happy whenever he talks to an officer so the officer feels that everything is well and that he’s doing a good job. Also, occasionally, the enlisted man should have some small, easily solved problem that he can take to an officer for the same reason.


The one thing I’ve learned in the Navy is: No matter where you go, as long as you have a pen and a pocketknife you’ll be okay.


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