By lex, on December 11th, 2003
One man’s journey from the mechanical through the metaphysical to the spiritual.
My father was a southern Baptist, a merchant sailor twice divorced before he married my mom. She was a member of the Roman Catholic Church from the coal mining valleys of Pennsylvania, where she learned from her mother that “dirty black Protestant” was essentially one word. She divorced her first husband as a drinker, gambler and abuser, back in the days when good Catholic girls from the Pennsylvania valleys didn’t do that – instead they bore babies, and bore up. She took her two young daughters with her when she left, to Washington, D.C. to make her way in the world. The year was 1944, and it simply wasn’t done. In time, my parents met, they wooed, and they wed. And in time, I was born.
By lex, on December 8th, 2003
Was Sunday, December 7th
That used to have real resonance, not that long ago. My pop was of the “greatest generation.” A merchant marine officer, he got paid to sail cargo to the Brits and Russians before the war and during it. Used to sail the Murmansk Run. A tough one, that. Bombers, U-boats. The very sea was an enemy – so cold that it wasn’t worth stopping to pick a man up, if he fell over the side. He’d be dead of the exposure before a boat could get to him, let alone the risk to the convoy.
His ship got hit by a dive bomber, just outside Murmansk – they ran it ashore before it could sink, and he spent six months there on repairs. Got her back to New York. She was sunk in the Indian Ocean on her next float, torpedoed by a sub. My dad had rotated off.
There were times when I was feeling low that I read a letter he wrote me while I was a plebe at the Naval Academy. He talked about being under fire, seeing ships alongside you blow up, or sail beneath the waves with their bows shot off, screws still turning. The screams of the men in the water. The fact that you couldn’t stop.
By lex, on December 5th, 2003
You’d date the F-16 and marry the Hornet
That’s a picture of an F-16N and an A-4E over the Dry Tortugas, west of Key West, Florida about 70 miles. Those were two of my squadron aircraft back when I was an adversary pilot, the third being the F-5E (not pictured).
The F-16N (N- for Navy variant) was a pocket rocket, lots of fun. Essentially a Block 20 F-16C with an A- model radar and no internal gun. It’d go like a striped-assed baboon, easily 800 knots on the deck. That was the redline, as fast as you were supposed to go, for various structural reasons (the canopy would start to deform, e.g.). Once, while running down a pair of Hornets trying to bug out, I caught myself going 840+, and she wasn’t even breathing hard yet. At that speed it’s hard to slow down.
By lex, on December 1st, 2003
Brought to you by Navy medicine – the best in its price range!
Perhaps it would be churlish of me to point out that anyone enamored of the idea of socialized medicine really ought to spend a seven or eight hours of their time at sick-call in a Navy hospital. I mean, it does tend to weed out those who are merely goldbricking from those who truly need urgent care. The goldbrickers get a day off, while the very sick merely die, waiting for a visit with the doctor. Kind of like the skit from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” where the villagers talk of throwing the witch into the pond to see if she floated – if she did not, she was innocent, and could be buried appropriately. If she did, she was made of wood, therefore a witch and you could BURN HER!!!
By lex, on November 26th, 2003
On being a landing signal officer in rough weather…
I was a Landing Signal Officer as a lieutenant. A good job for a junior officer: you got to meet and know all the other pilots in the air wing (not just in your squadron), you learned a lot about landing well by watching others land poorly, and it got you out of duty on fly days.
By lex, on November 24th, 2003
When someone hit the “mute” switch on my XO’s fighter…
A beautiful day in Key West. Florida. I’m part of a three-ship of bogies, fighting against a pair of FA-18s from the east coast training squadron. I’m in a TA-4J, a two-seat version of our subsonic, single engine adversary aircraft. My squadron XO is in the single-seat version, an A-4E. Our flight lead is a good friend in an F-16N – he has a radar, he gets us to the merge.
We’ve had two hacks, and are half way through the third, when I hear a “knock it off, I’m flaming out.” It’s the XO, and already he’s starting to lose altitude as the engine unwinds. It was a single engine aircraft, with the one (the only) engine driving the generator and no battery, so I know he’s already deployed the ram air turbine, or RAT. The RAT is a basically an electricity generating windmill, that deploys from the fuselage cheek into the windstream when a handle in the cockpit is pulled.
Ed. Note: Since Lex used this as his masthead and his website has been down, thanks to the Wayback Machine I was able to retrieve it.
Sat – November 22, 2003
Because Beaty asked…
The nice man from Britain asked me what the logos were on the title bar – they reflect a portion of my navy and aviation history, I have left the training squadrons out:
From the left you have the crest of the US Naval Academy, in Annapolis, MD – my alma mater. To this day, I cannot see the academy’s chapel dome in the distance without checking my watch to see if I am late, and wondering whether I am going to be in trouble.
Call it the echoes of my guilty conscience – As a midshipman, I was very far from perfect.