Inking up the blogosphere. And no, I don't glow in the dark. But thanks for asking.

September 16, 2009

Mixed Bits

I’ve managed to reconnect on Facebook with a lot of the people I served with aboard the George Washington. This weekend we had a hysterical discussion thread that winged back and forth, all started innocently by a guy who happened to have a random memory of a certain dish served on the mess decks—the notorious Pork Adobo. The conversation quickly devolved, as it will do with squids, and it got me thinking about a whole bag of stuff: the things we loved to hate.

While deployed, there is precious little to entertain yourself with. Squids are nothing if not creative however, and opportunities present themselves in the form of bitching and joking, both of which we refined to an art form. Mind you, bitching is different than complaining. Bitching builds camaraderie, it became a language of its own. The biggest target for ridicule was the food. I know carriers have better food than other venues in the Navy, but some of it was still astoundingly bad. Everyone made new names for the most infamous dishes. The aforementioned Pork Adobo became Pork A-No-No, Pork A-Doo-Doo, or my personal favorite Red Death. It was served approximately 4 times a week. There was “Noodles Jefferson”—plain boiled egg noodles sprinkled with dried parsley. Was Thomas Jefferson a famous cultivator of parsley? Because if not, I’m sorry but it’s just noodles. There were these pre-packaged Chicken Cordon Bleus that were fried and served—known affectionately as Butter Bombs, Deep-Fried Hamsters, or Whale Turds. The milk, after about a week underway, needed no refrigeration and was a disturbing blue color. The juice (aka Bug Juice) was so high in citric acid that we used it down in the plant for shining up brass and other metals. And then there was the Chili Mac. I have no words for it, aside from the fact that I can’t eat anything resembling it to this day. On the plus side, the cooks could bake the shit out of some dinner rolls. They were yeasty and delicious. And potatoes, no matter the form, were usually pretty good. In the grand tradition of the military, anytime we got a steak dinner followed by ice cream, we knew bad news was on the way.

Nukes, being a smart bunch, got bored easily. One game developed down in the propulsion plant was Danger Nut: slide a ¾” or larger nut onto the end of a long flathead screwdriver, and aim a jet of high pressure compressed air at the nut. After it achieved the desired speed, you flung the screwdriver releasing the nut. It had so much internal energy it would ping all over the damn place, ricocheting, people diving for cover. A variant on this game was Xtreme Danger Nut: take the same nut and cut notches on the flats. When you spun it, it sounded like a jet engine winding up. The speed and energy of the nut were like 10 times greater than the original Danger Nut. Xtreme Danger Nut got the kibosh after someone got a hole punched through his coveralls and a nasty bruise. He needed to work on his reflexes. But hey, horseplay leads to sick bay, right? The other game that somebody came up with was Nutz: we painted a small 3-sided goal against the backsplash of a workbench. Each player got five 9/16” nuts, and you shot them at the goal using one finger to slide them. The next player would use his nuts to try and knock yours out of the goal. Points were awarded for nuts remaining in the goal, nuts on the line, and for knocking the opponent’s nuts out. Over successive deployments, the game of Nutz was refined with a whole series of rules, regulations, and a referee.

I can personally attest to the fact that duct tape is surely a miracle of the modern world. It truly is like the Force: it has a light side, a dark side, and it holds the universe together. I’ve seen a grown men suspended from the overheads, unwary victims of an MMFTT (mobile midnight flopping and taping team). I can’t confirm or deny that I’ve found myself stuck three feet up a bulkhead held fast by the superior strength of duct tape. It was also useful for creating a pretty fancy 9-hole golf course: balls, tees, and cups; the clubs were long extendable inspection mirrors. If Corporal-Captain Radar were a Nuke, he’d trade for duct tape—we had a whole underground black market for the stuff.

All of these things now are pretty amusing to look back on, but there’s other less tangible things that will stay with me forever. What do I do if while wearing a gas mask after a CBR attack I start feeling a tightening in my chest? One atropine and one 2-PAM chloride, straight in the thigh. Start to drool? Another atropine and 2-Pam chloride. The sound of a QAWTD being dogged: ka-CHUNK! The unique and pervasive smell of a ship underway—we called it Ship Funk; it’s a combination of JP-5, sweat, ass, oil, and feet. After a while at sea, everyone plain stinks and no amount of deodorant or soap can cover it. You could put me blindfolded in a city dump and hold a shirt from a deployed person under my nose and I’d know that smell. The belt buckle of the webbed belts we wore made a particular unique tinkling noise, and it was always a good laugh when in the bathroom stall next to you you heard ‘tink-tink-splash..(pause)..Goddammit!!’ Pretty sure that happened to everyone at least once. And more than once I’ve woken up from a dream, still hearing the sound of the General alarm: bong…bong…bong “Dual reactor scram, all reactor plant personnel lay to the propulsion plants”.

So this is my mental chop suey for today. It was great to relive some memories with my shipmates, and has left me smiling. BZ buddies.