Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Kind of a Repost. Not Really. But, Kinda.

  As I'm sure a lot of you know, Veterans Day is Friday.  This time of year always brings out the sentimental in me (well, that, and Canadian Thanksgiving).  As I'm also sure a lot of you know (mainly because I blather on and on about it), I was in the service from 1976 until 2005.    During that time, I managed to see quite a lot and do quite a lot.  
  WARNING:  Shameless Self-Promotion Ahead:
  These stories will be available in the book I am now writing called It's Not Just a Job, available in finer bookstores (or bottom of birdcages) nationwide sometime before the apocalypse.
  However, I wanted to whet your appetite before I finish this grand opus because, let's face it, I may die before it's finished.  Plus, it could also suck so it may never even get printed.  On the other hand, Snooki wrote a book (albeit in crayon) so there's hope for me.
  Anyway, I know you've seen these pictures before, but I changed the captions because you all deserve fresh material.  And I deleted the original file.
  So, join me now as I take you on a pictorial tour of a young man's transition from wet-behind-the-ears naif on the cusp of the greatest adventure in his life to wild-haired crone with a big crooked nose.

Seaman Recruit Penwasser
Naval Recruit Training Center (Great Lakes, Illinois) 
So young, so full of optimism, so wearing a clip-on tie and glasses with no lenses.

What you can't see:  we had just gotten back from being in the tear-gas chamber. So, you can't see dried booger.

Aviation Fire Control Airman Apprentice Penwasser
Naval Air Technical Training Center (Millington, Tennessee)
Part of the "Sucker Photo Package" given to young sailors.  For only $200 (I'm not kidding), I got twelve black and white wallet-size photos, one 8X10 color photo with a picture of my girlfriend in the upper corner (this, I think, was a major reason why she dropped me like 3rd Grade English a year later), and one creepy-ass 30" X 18" (you read those dimensions right) painting/portrait.  I still have it and trot it out every Halloween to scare the batcrap out of trick-or-treaters.  BONUS:  It really skeeves my kids out.
NOTE:  My glasses are crooked.  Yep.  $200.00

Aviation Fire Control Technician Airman Penwasser
USS America
I know what you want to say:  "Awwww, what a baby!  Does his mother know he's on a ship?"
Either that or, "I wonder if he's wearing pants...?"

Well, yes.  And, yes.

Aviation Fire Control Technician Third Class Penwasser
USS America
There are lenses are in the glasses, the faint beginnings of the mustache that still wouldn't let me get into bars, and look at me rocking those sideburns!
NOTE: This is the same shirt I wore in the above photo.  I just changed the patch on the arm.
And my underwear.

Aviation Fire Control Technician Second Class Penwasser
USS America
This was at my reenlistment onboard ship.  I gave the Navy four more years, they gave me a picture of the ship.  Oh, and I should tell you, I'm the little dude on the right-hand side.

Aviation Antisubmarine Warfare Operator First Class Penwasser
Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily
If it looks like I had indigestion, I did.  And diarrhea.  This was Sicily, after all.  Thank you for your concern.
If it looks like I was squinting, I was.  The photography studio lost all power (remember: Sicily) so we had to take our pictures outside.  So, I'm looking right at the sun.  
And trying to hold in a severe case of gastrointestinal distress.
NOTE:  The sideburns are gone forever!

Chief Aviation Antisubmarine Warfare Operator Penwasser
Naval Air Station (Brunswick, Maine)
The "surprised" look on my face was due to the fact that my hat was one size too small.  This pulled my eyebrows up and gave me a "I just got goosed" look.  Which I was.  By a midget.
HISTORICAL NOTE:  This was the zenith of the "Al With Facial Hair" era.

Ensign Penwasser
USS George Washington
I know what you're thinking, but the haircut was free!  Shouldn't have picked that blind guy, though.

On the bright side, the "stash" was finally gone.
But you can show a movie on my frikkin' forehead.

Lieutenant (junior grade)  Penwasser
USS George Washington
I was promoted by one of my best friends and the captain of the ship. The captain scared me.  Not only was he touching me, he could order me on bread and water for three days.  And, from the look of that 36" waist trying to escape from those 33" inch trousers, I could've stood to miss a meal or two.

Lieutenant Penwasser
Naval Air Station Keflavik, Iceland
A grim, no-nonsense Naval Officer who insisted that his people give their very best in the performance of their duties. 
And who should have incorporated more fiber in his diet.

And today....?
Citizen Penwasser
Rockefeller Center (New York City)
 Bastards wouldn't let me climb the Christmas tree.
I'm a veteran, dammit!

Friday:  My first completely serious post on Veterans Day.
Be there.  Or have something else better to do. 


  1. hahaha at least you saved them the trouble of having to find a movie screen and dirty bastards, should have let you climb that tree.

  2. Love the photos and the history of your rise through the ranks, and of course your funny captions. My husband was Navy also.

  3. I was looking for something to do today - so thank you! I am going to print the pictures and staple them together into flipbook form. Then I can watch you grow old over and over again! I meant to say mature...but that really doesn't fit, does it?

  4. That was fabulous - I loved the whole journey through your career. And good luck with the book, I'm sure it'll be fabulous!

  5. That was cool....from young geek to old....freak? (It was the only thing that came to mind that rhymed!) impressive career.

  6. dont let em stop you, climb that damn tree

  7. your mustache in the 79 pic makes me laugh. it says "wannabemolester" to me.
    but you're looking pretty good in your 95 shot.
    and in 04, you look very stern. or like you're clenching very tightly to prevent tooting while in uniform.

  8. I had no idea you were a vet! Nice one Al.

  9. You looked more boyish in 1995 than you did in 1979! I would have cast you in a re-make of Ensign Pulver.

  10. @Pat: I cut the damn thing down. That showed 'em. Too bad I had to spend the night in jail.
    @Clipped: Ah, the stories......
    @laughingmom: mature? Hee hee hee. I still play "pull my finger".
    @Megan: I meant to go in for only four years and then get out to go to college to become a teacher. Funny how plans change.....
    @Eva: No, no, freak works. True story: I sent a copy of that last picture to my family for Christmas. Imagine opening what you think is a cool Christmas card and you get...that.
    @Tony: I know....those fascists!
    @Sherilin: Yeah, that's some cheesy "Can you help me find my puppy?" crap, ain't it? You shoulda seen me when I tried to grow a beard!
    @Sub-Radar: Yeah, they let anyone in during the 70s.
    @Gorilla Bananas: I'm thinking it was the stash and the sideburns.

  11. Have you ever tried to climb an evergreen tree. It's got branches every which a way and you tend to go up more circular instead of straight up. Then you get dizzy and are in danger of falling out of the tree.
    Or so I've heard.

  12. And it's even tougher if it's a Christmas tree. Then, you have to deal with the hookers (ho, ho, ho).

  13. The whole "Snooki wrote her book in crayon" thing is just a big, nasty rumor. She wrote her book using scented markers. Intended for ages 8 and up.

  14. I salute you. It's great to see you through the years. You look ambitious and handsome in all but that last photo. In that one, it's more of a silly and handsome look you have going.

  15. Excellent post man, it's actually so cool to see you from being young until now. You've lived quite the interesting life, I'd be proud to have had experiences like you when I'm reflecting on my life and that's the truth. Great stuff.

  16. @JM: So THAT'S why I felt light-headed.
    @Robyn: It sure scared the kiddies. Plus, I made it a Christmas card to send to my brothers.
    @Yeamie: I never did the same thing twice. I thought that was pretty neat until I realized that meant nobody wanted to work with me twice.

  17. @Clipped Wings: I've been trying to comment on your posts, but for some reason I can't. Loved your pictures of the leaves. They look much better in your post than all over my yard. For one, they're a mess. For another, they hide the plethora of my dog's "yard apples booby-traps".

  18. I love these photos of you. Also love your witty sense of humor. thank you for your service. I hope you have a nice Veterans Day.

  19. Y'know, I gotta wonder just why you ended up in Iceland?

    That's just a middle-finger-salute away from an Arctic posting.

    What did you do wrong?

  20. Loved the photos w/ the trip down memory lane. Its so funny to see how people change as they go through time. Happy Veterans day to you and thank you for all the hard work and devoting your life to fighting for the US. :)

  21. Seeing all those photos was quite an expirence! It felt like you grew up right infront of my eyes!

  22. This is a joyous post for your followers. You brighten my day with your jokes and comments but I always wonder if there are serious moments. I know now, there had/have to be many serious moments devoted to your chosen life's work. You are a special blend of authority and humor and I treasure you as a "bloggy friend." Looking forward to that book. Manzanita

  23. @Manzanita: There actually were some serious moments: An inflight engine fire, being targeted by Iranian coastal defense, the suicide of one of my guys, watching the Twin Towers fall while I was in Iceland, almost running aground in Yugoslavia, tracking a Soviet submarine off the coast of North Carolina, that time in the 70s when we were afraid to sleep in our berthing compartment because of fear of racial unrest.... Luckily, we had much lighter moments.
    @Bersercules: I never ended up how I thought I would. But, it was a good ride.
    @Mrs. E: Thanks! I (seriously-no kidding) was proud to do what I did.
    @Symdaddy: Believe it or not, Iceland was the antisubmarine capital of the world at one time. It had it's moments, though. If you think I had it bad, I brought the family with me. They didn't do anything wrong. We did travel north of the Arctic Circle once (July 12, 2004)-the day was in the low 60s and beautifully sunny. I know. Weird.
    @LynNerdKelley: Luckily, I didn't include a picture of me with my shirt off (although I think I do have one). There's another one of me wearing a towel with my gym shorts on my head. I really don't remember why I did that.

  24. Did you have a girl in every port ?

    I once asked my Dad that about his Navy days. His answer "No, but I got a nice dose of the clap from a prostitute in Korea that I had to get rid of before I got home to your mother".

    Cheers Dad.
    I will certainly buy a copy of your book, I have a feeling Dad might like it too. With or without ten dollar sucky fucky.

  25. All kidding aside just this once, I have to say thank you, Al, for your commitment & bravery. And thanks for sharing, too. I love the 2004 photo best. Handsome dude! Have a happy & blessed Veteran's Day.

  26. Very cool! You were a career guy. I salute you even though I was never in the service although sometimes I regret not having done so.
    You definitely should finish those memoirs.

    A Faraway View

  27. @dirty: I did not (which would make my wife happy!). But, before I got married, oh, there are some stories. I loved your Dad's story! As you know, the American Navy is based very heavily on the Royal Navy (and I'm proud of that fact). Apparently, in addition to how we operate our ships, there are other similarities! As far as "sucky-fucky" that REALLY made me laugh because they actually say that (or the equally acceptable alternative, "fucky-fucky"). But...10.00? As Marty Feldman, playing Igor, said to Gene Wilder (playing Victor Frankenstein) in "Young Frankenstein," "My dad worked for your dad. But, rates HAVE gone up!" Thanks for the laugh!
    @Nancy: Thank you! I'm happy to report that the suit still fits.
    @Arlee: Funny how, before I knew it, I became a career guy. I try to work on the memoirs each night. Takes away from here sometimes, but I'm enjoying it.