By Lex, on Fri – July 30, 2004
Never was a weekend more gratefully welcomed home…
OK, that may be a bit of an exaggeration. Never is a strong word. Declarative. Final.
But still, the last week leading into this weekend has been rough. There are a thousand dangling threads, loose ends and action chits pending. And here am I, preparing to go on actual leave! To another state! Half-way across the ocean!
I mean, really!
Long nights trying to hammer flat the last few remnants of what can be done, prior to packing it in. Finally, a pass-down email to my temporary relief. Follow-up here, track this down, don’t neglect that. Floss every day.
I’ve had an actual nervous twitch in my left eye for the last three days. Not that you’d notice, but I do. Which is so not me. Not to be dramatic, but I’ve cheated death a dozen times at least, and left him high and dry on the curb, thumbing for a ride. Stared the beast in the eye, just for the hell of it, to see who’d blink first. Done it all without the merest backward glance. And I’ve never had a nervous twitch before.
This stuff is making me old, that and the passage of the years. The feeling that without me, it would all fall apart – that the center could not hold. That mere anarchy would be loosed upon the land.
Well, you get my drift. The feeling that I’m indispensable.
And you know what? I finished that email, passed him the rose, hit “send” and drove off into the sunset. The twitch was gone.
“The graveyards are full of indispensable men.” – Charles de Gaulle
A new add to the blogroll – Rachel Ann ,* who has graced my comments box of late, and blogs from Jerusalem, isn’t afraid to ask hard questions, and doesn’t pretend to have all the answers. Well worth a look, and those who leave a word or two in her comments boxes manage to do so from very different points of view – for the most part doing so without the usual internet flamenwurfer action. You should check her out, she’s on the battle line.
Geez, while I’m on about blogging from Israel, I should point out that I’m to attend my very first Bar Mitzvah tomorrow – a neighbor kid, great family. Anyone wants to drop me a comment or email about proper comportment (e.g., at exactly which point may I wear the lampshade on my head? These things are so much clearer in the Navy…) and protocol please consider yourself invited.
Took him and his extended family on a tour of the USS Ronald W. Reagan on base t’other day. And found out, to my slack-jawed surprise, that she only has, in fact, three arresting wires… Who approved this? Why wasn’t I consulted?
It’s a great looking ship, immaculately clean of course, as becomes a US naval warship. C’est comme il faut. But also brand-spanking new. The warrant officer detailed to be our tour guide (G-4 Weapons) did an outstanding job, and the Sailors all seemed genuinely happy to be there. Which, considering the fact that had liberty in Peru and Rio on the way over, having left the fetid lowlands of Norfolk for the elysian fields of Sandy Eggo, isn’t that hard to understand.
Part of the tour took us up to the bridge, and suddenly I felt very old – there was no chart table (electronic displays, you see) and no engine order telegraph (the ching-ching thing tells the engineers how many RPMs to throttle up). All touch screens.
I’m not sure I’m entirely ready for this – what if there is an electrical power failure? Imagined dialogue, from A Night to Remember, – “Madam, God himself could not sink this ship!”
Oh, yeah? If you say so, Titanic-boy.
At least they had an actual wheel for steering. Sadly, it looked like something that Gilligan might have used on the SS Minow – a real carrier’s wheel is big, daddy.
I’m all about size.
Had a real down-head bit in this space that named the friends I’ve lost along the way, and how they died, and how only one of the 25 died due to enemy action. Tried to tie it into some point I was trying to make, but it felt exploitative and wrong, and so it’s gone. They were real people with heartbeats and blood coursing through their veins, and friends of mine, and they had friends and family and people who loved them and they deserve better than to be treated as some sort of lesson or example.
So that’s that.
I’ve made a promise to myself not to blog about the DNC Convention. I mean, there are so many people all over that story, and in any case the conventions have just become some sort of bizarre theatre. I didn’t watch one minute of it live and only those excerpts that CNN thought I simply had to see.
A frequent commenter, also in the bidness (or used to be), shared this story, which I (being a generous person) will also share with you:
Your latest story about the practice air strike in Oman reminded me of an exercise we did with the Moroccan military forces.
We worked with them for about a week, flying a variety of missions, many of which were low level strikes.
They only had two or three low level routes available so we flew the same routes several times each day. This resulted in noisy jet aircraft flying over the same areas several times during the day and night. These were fun routes to fly as they ran along valleys through the Atlas Mountains and out into some very flat valleys and plains. The official floor was 200 feet AGL.
One route had a turn point that used a dam at the end of a reservoir. I was on the right side, in combat spread, flying along the edge of the reservoir which was basically a fairly steep hill or cliff.
I had just checked my wingman’s six when I turned forward and saw movement off to my right. I was eye level with a flat dirt yard in front of a very rural residence at the edge of a promontory and there were two boys about 10 and 15 years old throwing rocks at me. I was close enough to clearly see the anger in their faces. The whole thing was over in a moment, but I remember thinking that they weren’t leading me enough to have a chance of hitting me. Training, eh?
I told CVIC about that hazard when I got back and they adjusted that leg of the route to hug the other side of the lake.
Getting knocked down by some kids with rocks would be one of those new call sign kind of events.
There’s good stuff out there. Just got to figure out how to turn it into my fortune 🙂
Goods and others. At TOPGUN, when you debrief a flight, you set up categories of things that the crews did well. These are called, “Goods.” The things that they’ve done not quite so well are not called “Bads,” because no one wants to be hung with the label of “bad.” So instead we call them “Others.” If it’s not a good, it’s an other.
It may be that one of the eye-twitch stressors in my life right now might just be that I’m within a couple of months of making a “whole rest of your life” kind of decision. I’ve run this operational Navy gravy train about as far as it will go, and the next set of orders I negotiate (or don’t) will be the step-off point for all that comes after. Things in play:
> Stay in Sandy Eggo, working Navy. Goods – family is satisfied (God knows they’ve followed me around long enough). Reliable source of stead income, the life to which I have become accustomed. Others – no real growth opportunities. Nothing that will set me up for the next big thing (whatever that might be).
> Branch out into bidness, maybe get that MBA and someday, rule the world as a former Halliburton CEO. Goods – the acclamation of my fellow citizens. Others – are you kidding?
> Defense Attache route. Goods – cocktails and hors d’oevres, civilized conversation, lovely opportunities to schmooze with the sparkly set in Paris (in the springtime!). Others – Karachi, Pakistan. Because you just don’t know.
> Head east, get a master’s degree (finally!). Work that into a follow-on job in blue, then one in a suit. Goods – A well-trod path to upper middle class unexceptionalism. Others – A well-trod path to upper middle class unexceptionalism. And the emancipation suit from the Biscuit. Which I’d feel compelled to fight.
Can’t decide, so we’re heading to Hawaii (thanks to all of you for your suggestions), and hopefully it will all become clearer at the bottom of a mai-tai glass.
Remind me to save my notes.
Y’all have a great weekend!
*07-03-18 Link Updated – Ed.