Saturday, May 03, 2008

Stuck in the seventies

I spent these past few weeks stuck in the 1970s in my head.

First, my library stocked up on classic Yes albums and I've checked them all out one at a time and worn them out for the next user. My ears are ringing from iPod usage and my family is tiring of hearing them.

One morning I switch cars with my wife for logistical reasons and it felt like I borrowed my Mom's car to go to High School with Close to the Edge blaring from the Mini-van speakers as I pulled into the Train Station parking lot. I was 17 for moment.

I've rediscovered Relayer and Tales from Topographic Oceans is waiting upstairs.

Then, while I was immersed in the whole Yes thing, Carrier started on PBS.

Carrier is 10 - 1 Hour episodes filmed on the USS Nimitz deployment form May to November 2005. It was shown this week as 5 - 2 hour back to back episodes Sunday through Thursday.

I was mesmerized by the program and could do little else when I got home. I stayed up late watching it every night even though it was on Tivo. I watched parts twice. I was (am?) a Carrier junkie. I feel like I took a six month cruise in the span of a week without the annoying heat, lines and people yelling at you to do something.

Since I spent 2 years of my young adult life on Aircraft Carriers on cruises around the world, this was subject that I was familiar with. In 1978-79 I was on a Mediterranean cruise with the USS Saratoga and in 1980-81 I was in the Western Pacific with the USS Midway.

While much hasn't changed from the 70's on Carriers, much also has.

First of all, now women are on board and serving in just about every job function from the galley to FA-18 Pilot. I'm not sure if this is good or bad. The Navy obviously attempts to keep them separate and treat them like the robots they need but the inevitable has to occur. The show featured a couple that were High School sweat hearts and now (in 2005 at least), through the randomness of military bureaucracy, serve together in the same job function on the Nimitz.

Now a Carrier is more like High School than the floating prison it was when I was in. I'm not sure what that has done to the whole "culture of porn" thing that I saw in most Carrier berthing spaces. I just remember porn everywhere and not just cheesecake-like pictures, these were in depth anatomy lessons and they were everywhere. You can't have that going on with women aboard.


Second, the Shellback initiation is nothing compared to when I was in.

On Carrier, I'm not sure what they did for initiation. It looked like they got hosed down and crawled through green colored water at that was it. Ohh, and it turned into a wet T-shirt contest for the ladies. That really says it all. What was once a proud Naval tradition is now a wet T-shirt contest.

It was different for me. Can you find me in this picture? Hint: I have a large "P" on my white T-shirt.

I went through it on the Midway where nearly 3/4 of the ship were pollywogs (the initiates) and 1/4 were shellbacks (the initiators). I remember it was an all day event on the flight deck and the ship stopped operating for a day while everyone participated in this crazy ritual. Entire departments were brought up to the the circus on flight deck via the aircraft elevators. The night before people were chosen for stupid watches like flushing the toilet every ten minutes to see if the water went down clockwise in stead of counter clockwise thereby proving that we had crossed the equator and checking the flight deck expansion joints for movement.

In 1980 there was definite hazing. I crawled through garbage, I was hosed down with salt water, I kissed the Royal baby. Luckily it was with 3500 of my closest friends and there just wasn't the time for close, personal attention. I heard it was worse on smaller ships where the wog/shellback ratio was much more in the shellback's favor and they could then take all the time they wanted bringing you into the shell back realm. You were also a special Pollywog case if you had a long Naval career and had not gone through the ceremony yet. They went through personal records looking for the 15 year 1st class or chief that hadn't ever crossed the equator and they were in a "special" group.

Now they have something called inappropriate touching. Are you kidding me?

Here I am after kissing the "Royal Baby". They would find the fatest shellback on the ship and he would sit in a chair, rub Crisco on his flabby parts and take you by the ears and rub your face in it. He got me good.

When you were done, the first thing you did was wipe it off and laugh at your buddies that were behind you.

It was funny.

I also remember getting that haircut. I didn't normally wear my hair that close cut and I needed a hair cut right before shellback time. I went down the barber and got my regular haircut for the at-sea price of $0. When I came back to the shop where I worked, there were a group of my friends going down for a special haircut for the initiation. So I joined them and got the brand new haircut completely shaved off.

The Barber was not happy.


Third, where were the lines? I felt I stood in one long line from 1976 to1983. There were lines to eat, lines to get off the ship, lines to get on the ship, lines for haircuts, lines to the ships store and lines to the post office. On Carrier I didn't see one single line.

Fourth, what is with making telephone calls from the ship and email? In 1978 you sent a letter back to the states that same way that Franklin and Adams did from France. It took just as long.

And now, just to complete the whole trip down memory lane thing is a picture of me, on liberty, in the Philippines. I think I look like the director of Lost.

Ok I want that Polar Bear over here and cue the smoke monster.

Where did I get that straw hat?

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