Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's Not Just a Job

Oh, crap! They left without me!
  35 years ago today, I boarded a train (a train!) in New Haven, Connecticut for Navy boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois (which is almost an hour north of Chicago.  Which is NOT the capital of Illinois.  In which the 's' is silent.).
  Even though I politely pointed out to the kind gentleman at the military processing facility that the airplane was invented in 1903, I was told, "Shut yer f*****g pie hole, dinglef**k. We coulda put yer f*****g a** on a f*****g mule. Now, get on the f*****g train, s***bird!"
  Golly, my recruiter never acted that way.  F**ker.
  Anyway, as the train slowly pulled from the station, I began to wonder if I'd made the right decision.  After all, the next four years seemed like an eternity.  Maybe going to that junior college to major in lawn darts (beer pong hadn't been invented yet) wouldn't have been such a bad idea, after all.
  But, since I had spent my last dollar earned at Dino's Seafood and Cockfight Emporium, I figured I had to do something to put gas in my car, go drinking with my friends (the drinking age was 18 in 1976. It wasn't until my generation screwed it up that it was raised to 21.  Ooops, sorry, our bad), and take my girlfriend out to the drive-in theater (where we heard a lot of movies...wink, wink).
  Of course, it never occurred to me that I would be leaving my car, friends, and girlfriend for the next several months.  Didn't put a whole lot of thought into that decision.  It's probably obvious that I wasn't going into Naval Intelligence.
  Surprisingly, I survived the next four years (can't say the same for the relationship with my girlfriend).  In fact, I pretty much survived the next 29 years (I was actually in active service for 27.  The two years I spent as a Naval Reservist in the mid-80s is a whole 'nother story).
  Rather than bore you with a grossly overlong tale of "I Was There", I thought it better to give you a brief summary of an adventure begun with a foul-mouthed petty officer at a train station.

NOTE: No lenses in the frames.
And my hair has grown back.
1976- Joined the Navy to learn how to repair aviation electronics. Along the way, I learned how to fold my underwear.

1977- During my first port visit to Rio while embarked on my first ship, the USS America, I thought I was doing real good with the first ladies I met. Until they asked for money up front. Ohhhhhh....

1978- 'Saturday Night Fever' comes out, Vietnam attacks Cambodia, my girlfriend breaks up with me. Coincidence? I think not.
  Oh yeah. I'm promoted to Petty Officer Third Class.  Now I can at the "Big Boy" Swearing Table.

1979- John Wayne dies, there's a fuel shortage, we visit Alexandria, Egypt (man, that place is old), my ship enters the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth (as opposed to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine.  Those Navy guys with their wacky names!).
  Then, after the hostages are taken in Tehran, Ayatollah Khomeini protests, "You think I'm nuts?? Wait till you meet that Ahmadinejad guy!"

Sure, the statue behind me is way cool and all.  But, check out my wicked cool velour shirt and corduroy pants.  Speaking of....velour and corduroy???.....it's frikkin' hot out here!!

Petty Officer Al Penwasser rockin' that cool 70's Porn Star Stash and those hip sideburns!

1979: The Very First "Tying My Shoe" picture-Rome, Italy

To be continued.....

Next:  The 1980s-Shore Duty, Marriage, Divorce, Marriage, and A Flock of Seagulls.


  1. Wow...the origins of "tying my shoes" pictures! 27 years is a long time to serve in any military branch. Thank you for your service. I can't wait to see what else goes on...I mean...a Flock of Seagulls!

  2. and so it begins...
    thanks for your service to the country, even if you did get a good cussing out first thing.

  3. I spent six years in the navy and never saw anything but the east coast of the US.

  4. I checked to see whether the USS America was a carrier and wasn't disappointed. Did you get to do stuff on the deck when the planes were flying in and out?

  5. So...how much did you pay the ladies?

  6. @Jewels: For the life of me, I wish I could remember why I started doing it, but I can't. At 18, I didn't believe that time would fly, but it did.
    @Sherilin: "Talk like a sailor." I'd like to say that stereotype (and several others) wasn't true.
    @George: Even though I made several trips to the West Coast, I was never stationed there. Jacksonville, Memphis, Brunswick, Norfolk, Pensacola, Willow Grove, and (yep) Iceland-shoe tying pictures at each (I especially like the Memphis one-I'll unveil that around Christmas).
    @Gorilla Bananas: Sadly, the "America" is now a coral reef about 300 miles off the coast. The Navy is building a new amphibious ship that they'll call "America." I did some work on the flight deck (which primarily consisted of me running around wetting my pants), but I mostly worked in the aircraft maintenance department.
    @Kara: Which currency? And that's as far as going with that story!! ;-)

  7. You do kind of have that porn star look about you there Al! Chuck in that line of obscenities up top at the beginning of your post and you should be getting paid porno wages! lol

    I just love your posts... they always crack me up!

  8. Porn Star for the Lollipop Kids. Whatever works.

  9. very entertaining. I can't wait to read what tables you get promoted to next.

  10. You always leave us wanting more!

  11. I can't wait for the next installment! My dad was in the marine corps but decided that 4 years of active service was enough for him. 27 years, wow!! Thank you for your service.

  12. Great post!
    I saw your link at Robyn's blog and decided to check you out. I like what you do. If you don't mind, I'm gonna tag along.

    Patrick Tillett, Extremely Overdue

  13. A great chronilogical trip through history.

  14. Why no lenses in the frames?

  15. @Ruth: Because lenses caused a flash. Ain't that kooky? Either that or they were messing with my head. Which is probably likely.
    @Anthony: It's a shame I'm old enough to have experienced most of it!
    @Pat: Welcome aboard (oh, my gosh, enough with the Navy sayings, huh?)
    @Leslie: My nephew has been a Marine for five years and will get out to follow his heart (to Idaho, of all places) within a couple weeks.
    @Eva: Hopefully tomorrow...?
    @PTM: Eventually I got promoted to a table where I had to know which fork to use with salad. Plus, we couldn't eat our chicken with our fingers anymore. We had to eat our fingers separately.

  16. great post
    i like your blog (:

  17. What a great history! This has to be one of my favorite "I was there" stories I've ever heard. Probably because you've got a sense of humor!

    Looking forward to more.