November 18, 2008

Act IV - Just Who Do You Think You ARE?

I'm a real success, I am.

In 1967 -- I had begun college two years previously -- I switched my major from Pre-Dental to WineWomen&Song. Wise move. I flunked out. Vietnam was heating up, and I'd lost my student deferment. I had disppointed my parents. I needed to straighten up.

Every male I knew who was eligible for the draft fled to the National Guard, Air Force, Coast Guard (although in those days, coasts to guard were pretty sparse around Kansas City) and the Navy. Dad knew the local Navy recruiter and as a "favor," he "squeezed me in" under the 120-day delay plan.

So, I had three months in which to practice my college major without the pressures of formal classes. Studying was a breeze. Being the altruist I was, I served my fellow citizens during that time by contributing to their financial well being by supporting every 3.2 beer bar in Kansas City, KS, that I could find.

Then on Jan.4, 1968, my studies were interrupted. I reported to the Selective Service office for induction. They tested us, physicaled us and swore us in. Then, I took my first airplane ride, to the U.S. Navy Recruit Training Center, San Diego. Three days later, incidentally, the mailman delivered my draft notice to my parent's house.

For more than a year, Uncle Sam taught me disipline, initiative and seamanship, among other things, in boot camp -- and educated me in electronics in tech schools. Then, he sent me to a communication station outside San Juan, Puerto Rico. I quickly applied all I had learned up to then, especially the seamanship.

I discovered how inexpensive the booze was at the base Enlisted Men's Club, the best ways to remain upright when partying for days on end, and found the best places in Old San Juan for alcohol-fueled benders. Let's see...oh, yeah. I worked some, too, largely repairing teletype. I was the best TTY man on the island. Really had 'em snowed.

And there, I applied my seamanship. Five other guys and I chartered a small fishing boat one day and went deep-sea fishing eight miles out in the Caribbean. In all my time in the Navy, I NEVER got seasick. Okay, that once I did feel pretty queazy most of the day... Okay, REAL queazy. But I never hurled! (Also, in all my time in the Navy, that was the closest I got to going to sea. But that wasn't MY fault!)

During my enlistment, I spent anywhere from five weeks to six months, depending on my orders, in Norfolk, VA; Washington, DC; Winter Harbor, ME; Nicosia, Cyprus (Twice. I really liked it there); Rota, Spain; Bremerhaven, Germany; and Edzell, Scotland (I LOVED it there!). Also I experienced short visits to London, Paris, Rome, Frankfurt, Athens, Lucerne and Amsterdam.

I made some lifelong friends and had some memorable, if not exactly wonderful, experiences. I also got some great stories to tell; one of these days, I may use them in a book. You couldn't get me back in the Navy, though, if they gave me an aircraft carrier!

Then, in '73, having sown almost all the wild oats in my possession and given myself more-than-ample opportunity to become a full-blown alcoholic, I left Uncle Sam's service. Early, for school. Two years later, 10 years after high school, I earned my bachelor's degree at Central Missouri State University. There, I met tolerant and loving Patmywife of 33-plus years. She was so shy, so quiet, so sweet. I've often wondered what changed her....

In 1976, I fulfilled my mom and dad's dream when I earned a master's degree from The American University in Washington, DC. After that, Patmywife and I returned to the Midlands, where I eagerly jumped into the newspaper business. Two degrees in hand, I secured an editorship at a small family-owned newspaper in Missouri, earning a princely sum ... of peanuts. I've toiled since then in newspapers and in public relations. The peanuts are more abundant in the latter, but not THAT abundant.

Now, since Nov. 1, 2008 I am retired, and LOVING it! Unless you've had to feed the big paper beast, you can't know just how wonderful it is not to have deadlines. I think I'm gonna like being a sofa slug!

But maybe I'll just dance....

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