Monday, August 20, 2012

They Say That In The Navy #5

When we last took a brief break from our continuing adventures of one man’s hilarious journey through the trials and tribulations of a stint in the United States Navy, I was raising my hand and taking an oath on only a couple of hours sleep.  Perhaps that was my first mistake.  Making a four year commitment where the end result may have been getting my ass shot at on practically no sleep; fueled only by gas station coffee and a sandwich that had some weird beta test version of Miracle Whip on it.

Alas, we fast forward to about a month or so later.  The day had arrived where I was to be picked up by Rat Bastard and taken to the MEPS station.  My parents dropped me off at the recruiting center about thirty miles away from the house and I get into Rat Bastard’s car for what I presume is going to be another ride to the hotel where they house all of the people getting processed in the next morning.  However, Rat Bastard apparently had other scores to make to meet his quota.  There would be a slight change in plans.

Much to my surprise, Rat Bastard was not going to be joining me on the drive to the MEPS again.  He had more sheep to go herd up.  Instead, I was dropped off at the house of another person that was leaving for the Navy that lived relatively close to the recruiting station.  Which meant I got  to sit with a family of complete strangers as they bared witness to one of the miracles of life.  The birth of a litter of puppies from one of the dogs that they owned.  I can only make educated guesses that they owned more than one dog, no direct affirmations.

First of all, the trailer that the brood lived in had that smell like the inside of a bowling ball’s thumbhole.  Perhaps it was the dog giving birth.  Judging by the d├ęcor of the domicile, I can imagine that the odor that was seeping through my nasal passages had been there long before Biscuit’s water broke.  So I get to have an internal debate with myself over the odor of this house and the potentiality of if it will latch itself to any articles of clothing I am wearing, much like the “B.O.” episode of Seinfeld.

So there I am, mulling over whether I have done the right thing with this life changing decision, and I am staring right at people adding more newspaper under a dog so the afterbirth doesn’t soak through the carpet.  You’d think at that point I would have walked right out of the trailer and caught the first payphone to have my family pick me up.  However, I was full of piss, vinegar and I had at the time signed what I thought was a legally binding contract.  I honestly thought the police would come and get me if I didn’t go to the processing station.  Serious doubts abounding here.  Rat Bastard had long since made himself a ghost, leaving me to be dropped off at the hotel by complete strangers.  You’d think I would have reread the fine print of my contract.  However, once the family designated that it was time to drop I and one of their own off at the hotel, I was more consumed by the words “free buffet” than anything else.

You know, I should have just stayed in the car and reread the contract.  Then again, I wouldn’t have these wonderful little stories to amuse you all with.  Next time, I’ll go more into the brief bit of time at the hotel and the return to the processing station.  Thank you all for reading and if you like, please be sure to spread this stuff around on Facebook and Twitter and the like.  See you next time!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

They Say That In The Navy #4

Welcome back.  When we last left off, I was talking a little bit about the processing stations.  If I go a particular edition and miss out on some tragically important item, please remember that it's been several years and some of this stuff is harder to remember than I thought.  I thank you all for reading, considering the fact that most of you are probably wondering when some of this rambling is going to get interesting.  Beats me!

The town I grew up in was a rather small one in northeastern Michigan.  For those readers outside of the United States, both of you, it's the section of the American map that looks like a glove.  Nowadays, if you look at Michigan from space you can almost get the image that it is waving at you and saying, "Hi, we're filled with rampant unemployment and unusually high crime rates in our urban areas."  Around the time I joined the Navy, all the wave would have said to you was, "Hi there, we're all down here eating beef jerky, hunting deer and listening to Bob Seger on our cassette players."  Yes, we actually had cassette players back then.

Back to my point.  The day I remember driving down to the processing station was quite an interesting one.  due to the almost remote nature of our little town on the edge of Lake Huron.  It was somewhere around a two and a half hour drive to get to the processing station which I believe was in the state capital.  To be perfectly honest I don't remember.  It was one of the first times in my life that I was going to have to be up before Al Roker and not be directly compensated for it.

You know you're up early in northern Michigan and the only thing open is the one all night gas station in town.  This was a time that I recall where it was still sort of a big deal that you could get coffee that had different flavorings in it.  Yes, cappuccino was a big deal.  Even if it was that powdered junk that you got out of a little machine.  So my recruiter, who will be henceforth referred to as Rat Bastard, and my friend that was on recruiting duty loaded into Rat Bastard's car and made the drive to the MEPS station.  All the while making jokes to my friend about ordering coffee that had a cinnamon flavoring to it.  I should probably publicly apologize for making several jokes about my friend's choice of coffee.  We just plowed through a 18 pack of cinnamon K-Cups and boy are they delicious.

Anyway, we finally get to the processing station sometime around daybreak, or maybe it was the sun just playing tricks on me.  The next several hours was quite a blur going through all of the physical tests and filling out paperwork.  I hadn't even sworn in yet and there was quite a bit of paperwork.  If you ever scratched your head on a Tuesday, there had to have been a form for that.  They want to make sure you aren't going in with anything on your record.  Several hours later, once you've gone through all of the tests and paperwork they bring you into a room where you are sworn into the military.

It should be noted that there's one processing station for all the branches of the armed services.  It's actually quite interesting to see that the separation and camaraderie of the branches starts well before you even step foot into basic training.  You had the Air Force people sticking with the Air Force people and so on.  You also had some people joining exhibiting feelings that they were somehow superior to other branches, long before any of us had done one push-up inside a military installation.  Some of the folks that were there that day would be leaving for basic training immediately after leaving the processing station.  Boot camp would be their next stop.

I was enrolled into something called the Delayed Entry Program(DEP).  DEP was one of those little things where you could delay the time from when you enlisted to when you actually had to show up.  I suppose to get all of your affairs in order before you actually had to report.  I think mine was about a month or so.  The next month was spent trying to get myself into as good a shape as I possibly could and going over my enlistment contract to make sure that I hadn't just been b.s.'d by a recruiter that was merely trying to make his quota.  Ok folks, that's enough for now.  Next stop we will be arriving at the MEPS station again and will actually be leaving for basic training.  hope you all enjoyed and keep spreading the word.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

They Say That In The Navy #3

Wow, we've actually made it to number three.  You know, in between having a terribly short attention span and a readership that hovers near the minimum number of people needed to field a baseball team; I'm surprised that I haven't given up on this one already.  However, there's so many stories to tell.  Most of them horrifically boring, but I will try my best to spice them up.

I might as well begin at the beginning.  Not fair trying to make you folks jump around the list of articles trying to piece this whole story together like watching reruns of Quantum Leap.  So we're going to start off at the start and hope you all don't start dropping like flies and go looking on YouTube for videos of cats looking surprised.

My journey into joining the navy starts the way many around the country are notified they lost a substantial amount of money gambling on a sport they have merely a base knowledge of; being woken up by a phone call early in the morning after a night of sleeping on a couch.  A friend of the family had joined the navy and was home on recruiting duty and figured to tap me as somebody that would enjoy the experience.  We'll get into the enjoying the experience part way later on here.

To make a long story short, a couple of days after the initial phone call I end up going down to the MEPS(Military Entrance Processing Station) a couple of hours away from where we lived at the time.  The MEPS had this odd mixture of airport waiting area, hospital and bus station.  It was technically a military installation, but had droves of civilian folk running around.  There were all these fun little tests that you had to go through, like walking across the room and walking like a duck.

Walking across the room like a duck may not seem like the thing that will keep us safe from the terrorists, but in a pre 9/11 society maybe the most we had to worry about was renegade ducks from the eastern seaboard.  I remember they had this odd little cafeteria that served these pre packaged sandwiches and whatnot.  One of the funnier things that I can recall about the place that I had to go get processed at was this excellent video arcade it had.  Seems kind of odd to have a South Park pinball machine.

Yeah, the pinball machine was kind of an odd one.  Especially given the fact that I don't remember a change machine.  We will have more on the processing station in the next edition.  thanks for reading.

Monday, August 13, 2012

They Say That In the Navy #2

Well, I've made it to the second one.  Hopefully some of you have.  Bouncing around the chronology yet again, I'd like to discuss the nature of coffee and it's purpose in the United States Navy.  Coffee in the navy is a more useful tool to keeping a ship afloat than the fire teams and people driving the ship.  If naval vessels were suddenly deprived of coffee, the whole damned system would collapse.

It's true.  You've got a job where on a lengthy deployment there can be thousands of people out to sea on just one vessel.  Many of us getting up at odd hours for watches and things like that.  Look at it this way.  You know when you hear that noise at three in the morning and you get up and look outside to see if it was just the wind, a badger going through your garbage, or some guy breaking into the neighbor's car?  Military folks have to power through that same feeling and then immediately go operate a multi-million dollar piece of equipment.  Or for those that get assigned lookout watch, stand there and point out other things in the water. Which can be just as rough of a job as maneuvering a ship, but I digress.

Coffee.  The lifeblood of the American naval fleet.  Like a great many things that we received on board, it would come to us during underway replenishments in giant containers that would make the folks at Sam's Club and Costco cower in fear.  I still have a problem to this day with a toe on my right foot from dropping a can of spiced ham or something like that on my foot.  Must have been the size of a bowling ball.  Sailors are first introduced to the concept of Navy coffee when we are at our tech schools.  It's usually cold, been sitting there for several hours and there's no cream or sugar to be seen.  So you drink it without any embellishment whatsoever.  This coffee isn't designed to warm you up.  It's designed to wake you up!  So you trudge through this dark, muddy water and miraculously the caffeine hits you.  By the way, don't even ask about decaf.  I was in the navy for four years and do not think I once saw decaf served on or in a government installation.  My lack of knowledge of decaf coffee by the way, continues to some time ago when my wife and I purchased a Keurig machine and one of the sample packs we got with it had a small pack of decaf K-Cups.  Much to my surprise drinking the decaf didn't turn me into a reverse vampire.

However, when you get to your duty station the coffee situation changes drastically.  You, yes you, can actually drink it while it still has some degree of warmth to it!  And you can put cream and sugar in it to get that USDA "Approved For Human Consumption" taste out of your mouth!  The cream and sugar in this situation really helps out.  On its own, even properly heated Navy coffee can be a beast that's quite formidable to contend with.  Remember, this isn't like brewing a pot at home or even at the office.  Most times, this stuff is brewed in obnoxiously large pots, and they don't make any new coffee until the last of the old stuff is gone.  So during certain times of the day, you can have coffee slow cooking for several hours until it's essentially a thin paste.  So it's not designed to taste good, however I think that was one of the things that was explicitly stated on the enlistment contract.

Well, that's all for now.  Hope you all enjoyed and be sure to spread this around however you can.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

They Say That In The Navy #1

After a brief sabbatical from writing a series that was only three editions into production, some of which included being loaded into a contraption that shot me three hundred feet into the air; we are back.  I'm going to bounce around quite a bit here.  Seeing as how approximately six and a half people read this, I think I can bounce around on the chronology without very many people noticing anything happened at all.  So what's on my mind right now?

We had an absolute bitch of a thunderstorm this morning.  Woke up about nine this morning to feed the cat, which had been pawing at me for several minutes to wake up.  I presume that it thought I had passed throughout the night or something.  That's actually the amazing thing about cats if you ask me, they are very good time keepers.  If you need to get up by a certain hour, don't bother with an alarm clock.  Just get a cat.  Start feeding it at eight in the morning.  Do it for a really long time.  The one day you decide to sleep past eight, your cat will come into your bedroom and paw at the blanket as if it is trying to say, "Hey, I can't open the damned can myself!"  allowing you to naturally wake up without the jarring sensation of an alarm clock.

Which brings me to alarm clocks.  When I was in the military, there was this guy named Kurtz.  Yep, just like Brando's character from Apocalypse Now.  Only the Kurtz I was familiar with at the time seemed to be a little less mentally stable.  Put it to you this way.  You know those people that sit and watch the five hour long Nyan Cat videos on YouTube all the way through without a break?  Double that and you have a smidgen of what Kurtz was like.  If I remember correctly, the guy had TWO copies of every album the Insane Clown Possee had put out to date.  When I asked him about this, he explained that the reasoning was what if we were out to sea and he dropped one of them in the water.  As crazy as it may sounds, I admire his planning.  Even if the plan was to stockpile ICP CD's in case of emergency.

Anyway, the fellow had this unique obsession for being on time that rivaled being strange for the military.  One time, I had drawn midwatch or something like that and asked Kurtz, who was on the previous watch to wake me up so I could check in on time.  Now, instead of waking me up by lightly tapping me on the shoulder, or going "Dan, wake up"  I am awoken by this remarkably loud constant beep directly in my ear.  This one incident is probably the reason I can't hear the tv and people talking at the same time to this day.  I wake up rather violently and hit my head on the top of the bunk then look over and see his maniacal looking face.

Even when he was in a down mood, Kurtz always had this look about him as if he had consumed too many Joker products.  Anyway, I glance down to see him holding this purple box.  It was a trucker alarm clock.  It had to actual clock to speak of, just a countdown timer.  Which begs the question, did he just hit the button to activate a noise that would have woken the dead; or did he set the timer and stand there for the entire time?

That's all for now folks.  Next time I'll start discussing some of the wonders that make up basic training, or the time I knocked Oliver North into a wall.  You guys can go on the FaceBook and decide.

The Dan Experiment On Facebook

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Hi there folks.  During our family's recent trip to Wildwood, NJ I was asked by my wife to go on the SpringShot with a friend of our son's so he wouldn't have to ride in the contraption by himself.  Being the nice fellow I am, I agreed.  Here is the video from inside the ride, and what it looked like from the ground.  Enjoy!

From the Ground

And here is inside the ride itself..