The Moment When the Only Home I had Ever Known Suddenly Felt Foreign

[ This entry originated here » The Place where Imagination becomes Reality (Dec 25, 2017). ]

» Hawaii was the First Place to Feel Like a New Home

They did this while I was off turning matter into energy for the military-industrial complex, and going to strip clubs with the Dog in Waikiki, after smoking Maui Wowie and whatnot.

Hawaii was the first place that felt like home to me after I left home. By then I had already lived in a number of other places, but the combination of time-away-from-home, and time-spent-in-a-new-place made Hawaii feel like home for me.

» Along the Lines of an Invisible Umbilical Breaking

That was a trippy feeling .. which is why I remember it so well. This was the first time in my life when Connecticut did not feel like my 'home.'

It happened fast as you snapped your fingers. It was not a gradual thing .. like you might imagine.

I am trying to decide if I should say that it was like an invisible umbilical broke .. an invisible umbilical between Connecticut and Hawaii.

That might not be the best way to say it .. but it is definitely along those lines.

I was walking home at the time .. toward Diamond Head .. along Ala Wai blvd in Waikiki ..

Sidewalk along Ala Wai blvd and Ala Wai canal in Waikiki with Diamond Head in background

.. when I was living with the Dog. Right below the two strippers from Vegas.

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••• today's entry continues here below •••

It was after sunset but not yet dark. I was walking home from Ala Moana beach.

Waikiki beach was much closer .. just a few blocks away. But it could get crowded, and the vibe there was definitely tourist.

I felt very comfortable at Ala Moana .. which is a big, long beach park, with a great view of both Waikiki and Diamond Head.

Ala Moana beach park Oahu Hawaii

It was the perfect place to run. It was like our home beach while we were living there downtown Waikiki.

It also had a grassy area with plenty of trees. I spent many-a-day at Ala Moana.

Ala Moana beach park Oahu, Hawaii

I spent one off-crew in Waikiki, which is 3½ months. I spent 3 off-crews total in Hawaii.

The one that I spent on the North Shore (Waialua) with the Bronx dude .. that was very nice. Totally different vibe from Waikiki and urban Honolulu.

(Honolulu has the worst rush-hour traffic I have ever seen. I know that it is hard to believe, but it is even worse than LA. But without the air polution.)

Ask me how many times I had shaved ice from that road-side stand there near the bridge.

My first off-crew was spent in the middle of the island. So I was able to sample a variety of aloha goodness. The aloha spirit is real.

Anyway .. Ala Wai blvd is a one-way street, so I was walking against traffic .. as I was walking home that day. I was walking toward Diamond Head.

» Running the Daily Ala Wai Loop

When the Dog and I did our daily 4-mile loop-run, we would always begin and end by running with traffic .. right down this sidewalk you see picture here.

Ala Wai blvd facing Diamond Head in Waikiki

Then you cross over a little bridge not far from here and run on the other side of the canal .. back toward Diamond Head.

One day, shortly after we had moved in, the Dog came home all sweaty-like and said, "Dog, I found this great running loop right here in our neighborhood. I'm gonna take you on this run tomorrow. You're gonna love it."

I said, "Okay."

He said, "I'm gonna jump in the car right now and see how many miles it is."

I said, "Okay."

We would usually take a hit of Maui Wowie or whatever sticky stuff we happened to have handy .. Kona buds, Puna buds, Kauai Electric .. right before we ran out the door.

After we crossed the street in front of our apartment building, we would stretch for a minute or two before we started running.

This is where the Dog would usually say something like, "Dog, look where we are. Look where we live. This is paradise .. and we're smoking the best weed in the world."

» The Dog was a Strong Runner

The Dog liked to run at the hottest time of the day. "If you can run in the heat of the day," he would say, "you can run anytime."

If you run four miles every day at a good clip .. you get in excellent shape in a few weeks.

The Dog was a strong runner. At the halfway mark he would say, "You run at your own pace, Dog .. I'm gonna stretch this out a little." And then he would take off and leave me behind.

One time, after a few secs, I thought, "Fuck him .. I'm gonna keep up with his ass if it kills me."

I could not catch him. He never even knew that I was chasing him.

The Dog ran with other sailors, too .. such as Dino from Long Island and Rooker from South Dakota. Everybody said that the Dog was a strong runner. It was humbling thing to run with him.

Remind me to tell you the story about the time that base security stopped the dog at 5:30 in the morning, while he was out on a run .. when we were living in Washington state. God's country.

He was pissed. That mightve been the most pissed I've ever seen him.

They didnt stop him any more after that.

» The Worst Idea Ever

I rarely drank in Hawaii. (Unlike Leslie.) One time, the Dog talked me into drinking a can of beer before we went for our run .. like they do in Hoboken.

My feet felt like they were made of lead. I said to the Dog, while I was huffing and puffing, running there beside him, "This is the worst idea ever. Running is three times harder."

The Irish boy laughed. It didnt seem to bother him like it bothered me. I was not surprised. The Dog, at times, seemed downright invincible.

» I was Glad that the Umbilical had Broken

Anyway .. I was glad that Connecticut now felt like it was genuinely behind me .. like it was a distant place .. a distant memory .. like the invisible umbilical had broken.

Because there was plenty-of-shit that I needed to move beyond.

(I bet that Abraham knows exactly what I am talking about here.)

Dysfunctional shit. Dysfunctional family dynamics .. with parents who were trying to work out their salvation through me.

I could sense their sense of urgency .. about how badly they felt that they needed to work out their salvation.

Perhaps they had honorable intentions .. but they were definitely going about it wrong-headedly.

Morning in Waikiki

I felt like I could be my own person easier now .. free to build something new .. which actually worked for me. Something functional and fun and cool.

My mom came out and visited for 10 days with me and the Dog, and a third roommate, who was older than us and who kept me and the Dog out of trouble .. which was no easy task.

Mom said, "Oh, honey .. I like your friends. I like them a lot."

I said, "Mom .. we drive a nuclear submarine around on the other side of the planet, splitting atoms  .. with ballistic missiles trained on China. You think they let schmucks do that?"

» No Wonder I am So Fucked Up

After I had gotten out of the military and been working commercial nuclear power for a few years, I was chatting with mom and the subject of my grandmother's death came up. My dad's mom. (She lived to an old age .. after birthing six kids.)

Mom said, "Your father resented that you werent there."

"At the funeral?" I asked.

"Yeah," she said.

» You Know Your Father

I took a moment to screw my head back on straight and said, "Does that make even a little sense to you? I was on patrol. We were underwater. We were covering targets in China. Were we supposed to stop so I could come home for grandma's funeral?"

Mom gave me a look and said, "You know your father," Her look said, "Who can figure out your father?"

Her subtext was » "Your father is known for holding unreasonable expectations of others." [ True that. But for himself, he had an endless number of excuses. ]

I did not say it, but I was definitely thinking, "No wonder I'm so fucked up. I had immature children for parents. And one of them is still a child. I am so glad that I am out of there forever."

(My mom was 19 when I was born.)

» Employing Drastically Different Standards for Others

I am telling this story because it paints an accurate illustration of my father .. in that, he would not walk 5 minutes down the street to watch me pitch a Little League game .. during the three years that I pitched there ..

.. yet he somehow expected me to get out of a nuclear deterrent patrol ..

Nuclear-powered submarine underway surfaced

.. and fly six thousands miles in order to attend his mother's funeral ..

.. that I didnt even know about .. because I was at sea at a location that was so secret that even I didnt know where we were.

[ You need a clearance in order to operate a reactor plant on a nuclea submarine .. so I had a clearance. But it was not 'secret'. You needed a secret clearance in order to know where we were while at sea. We operated the reactor, but we never knew where we were. ]

Perhaps now you can better understand when I say that much of my relationship with my father seemed more like I was dealing with an easily-offended younger brother .. than with an actual father figure.

Thank God for drugs .. for good, psychoactive drugs. I bet that Micharl Pollan knows exactly what I am talking about.

I can see now that we need to come to a place where we can speak to these things .. to these hurtful things from our childhoods .. from a place that is calm and centered and where we are in possession of ourselves.

And no, it's not easy to get there.

» Oprah Gets It

I bet that Oprah knows exactly what I am talking about.

Oprah explores the topic of treating childhood trauma for 60 Minutes

Go Oprah. I sent a thing your way. Welcome to my world.

What do you think about this article, titled » Homework Therapists' Job: Help Solve Math Problems, and Emotional Ones?

» People Talk and Compare Notes on their Parents

See .. people talk. When guys get together with other guys who grew up in other places .. they talk among themselves and they compare notes .. notes on how it was for them growing up.

Hereditary is an unsettling look at what demons we may have inherited from our parents

They talk about the things that their parents did while they were growing up.

And it quickly becomes apparent where their upbringing diverts from that of others. You know exactly what I am talking about.

I was stationed at Pearl Harbor for two years. Half of that time was spent stationed aboard the nuclear submarine.

We flew to Guam to pick up the boat from the other crew, the Blue crew, the Bluies, who we relieved during a 5-day turnover.

We were the Gold crew, the Goldies.

Then we kept the boat for 105 days .. while the Bluies flew back to Hawaii and fucked off for a few months .. and tried to screw their heads back on straight again.

Sometimes a pair of bluies and a pair of goldies would time-share the same apartment on Oahu .. but not as often as you might imagine.

Most sailors just pre-paid the rent for the months that they were away at sea .. so that they didnt have to deal with the hassle of storing their shit and then finding a place when they returned from patrol.

» Guam Stories Unlike Any Other

Remind me to tell you my Guam stories. That would definitely be gnarly.

Guam is where I first worked as part of a crew that operated a nuclear reactor .. after training like a motherfucker for two years to do this thing.

And here is where I would finally be able to do this thing without an instructor looking over my shoulder.

» The Wonderful Sense of Satisfaction that Comes from Working with a Team of High-Caliber People

Here I could certainly wax verbose, but suffice to say that there is a very cool feeling that comes with the experience of working with other high-caliber people at sophisticated tasks on the other side of the planet.

Working with high-caliber people at sophisticated tasks is something that I have felt myself drawn to pretty much my entire life.

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS)

In Guam, I was suddenly in a whole new world. Unlike any that I could have possibly imagined.

And the sense of confidence that comes from such a realization of much hard work and effort .. this experience inspires the most pervasive sense of satisfaction. You feel satisfied all the way down to your toes.

» Not Far from the Doldrums

Guam is nearly twice as close to the equator (at 13 degrees) as Hawaii is (at 21). Los Angeles, by comparison is 34 degrees north latitude.

Guam is not far from the doldrums (at 5 degrees).

At 6AM in Guam, with day just starting to break, we would step out, freshly-showered, from our air-conditioned barge .. into the balmy air of another morning in Guam .. and immediately start sweating.

I have been in steam saunas that had less humidity than Guam.

Meanwhile, the barges were kept like meat-lockers ..  to prevent anything from growing .. where a whole FBM crew is quartered.

This going from tropical weather to meat-locker temperatures .. all day long .. this tends to fuck you up.

The stories that I carried with me out of Guam .. these stories are unlike any other stories in my life.

These stories feel like they came from a different planet .. or maybe from a different universe.

I was 21 years old when I first set foot on Guam soil.

Guam is where we did our re-fits. Re-fits suck gigantic goose eggs. Re-fits are definitely not for pussies.

» The Re-Fit Spent in Drydock in Guam

Speaking of re-fits that such gigantic goose eggs .. remind me to tell you about the time we put the boat in drydock.

Now there is where I could share a number of interesting stories.

You don't appreciate how enormously gigantic a ballistic missile submarine really is .. until you see it out of the water.

When you see the Dog, ask him to tell you about our re-fit in Guam .. the one we spent in drydock.

» First Call .. First Call to Colors

Ask him, "What happened when you heard the announcement 'First call .. first call to colors'." ?

Watch his eyes .. his Irish eyes. Watch them closely.

There are some things that are known only by a small number of people.

'Colors' is where they lower the flag at sunset. Colors is sunset. Sunset is a good time in Guam to take a break .. and watch the sky change incredible colors.

Things start getting dark.

» The Acid-Eating Nuclear Dudes

One of these stories would involve discussing how these nuclear dudes were big on eating acid.

I probably shouldnt say very much .. except to say that a sheet of R2D2 blotter was going around in Guam.

People would do only a quarter tab. Nothing outrageous. Just enough to take off the edge.

But a quarter-tab would do you nicely .. especially in Guam .. which is curious place to do a re-fit on a nuclear submarine.

There was something curiously recreational about dropping acid during re-fit in Guam. If you have ever done a re-fit on an older boat, then you know what I'm talking about.

I actually have a bunch of crazy acid-eating stories that I could share .. including stories on Hawaii, too. But these are stories that I can never really tell.

» I Am Not Going to Tell You the Motorcycle Story

I am thinking right now of one such story. I would probably title this story » The Motorcycle Story.

Generally speaking, the 150 members of your crew are your friends and family in Hawaii. But there are a number of nuclear submarines homeported there at Pearl Harbor.

You rarely interact or socialize with members of other crews. But sometimes, somebody on your crew would know somebody on another crew and you might get invited to a party being thrown by people on another crew.

This is sort of how the Motorcycle Story begins. But I cannot tell you the motorcycle story.

I can tell you that it was a black Sporster, 1000 cc, with a "suicide" style handlebar.

These super-smart nuclear dudes ate more acid that any other group I've ever known. Self-medicating. 

» An Exclusive Club

But there is one acid-eating story that I cannot resist telling .. because it is instructive.

Nobody ate acid underway .. while the reactor is critical and we were steaming someplace submerged. I am talking about after re-fit is done.

I was standing the duty ELT watch (Engineering Laboratory Technician).

This is a daily assignment. You are the duty ELT for the whole day .. as compared to regular watchstanding shifts, which were 6 hours on and twelve hours off. I was the duty ELT for the entire patrol (2½ months after re-fit is done).

You could normally do everything that you needed to do for the day in 4 hours (radiation surveys, reactor coolant chemistry sample, adding chemicals as necessary, etc.).

Sometimes they came and woke you for something special .. but normally it is a comparatively cush job.

I am speaking here about life at sea. However, when you are getting ready to go to sea, and when you return from sea .. this is another story. Not so cush, then.

The biggest part was the daily sample of primary reactor coolant (radioactive water) that you had to draw and analyze.

You could do it whenever you liked, but I always did it right after midnite. Maybe 1 or 2 AM, after the midnite movie .. but I liked to get everything done right away.

This was how the guy who trained me did it, and it sounded like a good idea to me.

When my friends were standing watch, I would go back aft and hang out with them and chat about whatever.

» Angles-n-Dangles and Test Depth

On this particular day, the ship was scheduled to do angles-n-dangles, and then go to test depth.

Angles-n-dangles takes the submarine to extreme up and down angles. Very trippy .. even without eating acid.

Stating Test-Depth of a now retired nuclear submarine is probably harmless .. but I'm not going to tell you what it is, anyway.

But it is as deep as the submarine is allowed to go. It's over a thousand feet .. but I won't say how much further.

So I wandered back after the movie before the movie was over .. because it was such a hacker.

When I stepped through the watertight door into Engine Room Upper level .. the Dog was there talking to my buddy from the Bronx.

The Dog grew up in Hoboken.

» We'll be the Only Three in this Club

When they saw me, you could see from the looks on their faces that they were up to something.

The Bronx boy said, "I saved some of that R2D2 that was going around. We're going to test-depth today. Let's trip at test-depth."

"That's crazy," I said, before looking at the Dog and asking, "Are you going to?"

The Dog said, "I already did. Five minutes ago."

I gave him a questioning look and was thinking about what to say, when the Dog said,

"Come on, Dog .. how many people you think are walking around on planet earth right now who can say that they dropped acid at ump-teen hundred feet below the surface? We'll be the only three in this club."

I said, "Fuck it .. gimme that thing."

» You Guys are a Bad Influence on Me

While I waited for the Bronx boy to retrieve the tab from his wallet, I said, "You guys are a bad influence on me."

New York City boys and Hoboken boys are naturally going to be exposed to more city-type of things growing up .. compared to a suburban New Haven boy like me.

Anyway .. I had a great time tripping at test-depth, and during angles-n-dangles .. which are trippy enough, even without the acid.

» Everybody had a Great Time

In missile compartment, the missile techs tied a length of string from the port side bulkhead to the starboard side so that it was pulled taut.

When the submarine goes to test depth, the hull, which is made of an exotic, flexible metal that is 6-inches thick .. the hull compresses so much that the string was lying on the floor. (On the deck.)

The hull makes noises as you go deeper and deeper. We didnt go straight to test depth, but rather proceeded a little at a time .. as we continuously monitored for leaks.

In Machinery Space upper level, they buffed the decks with wax, and they went sliding down the decks on a sheet on their bellies as the angles got severe.

Everybody had a great time.

In the four years that I was stationed aboard that submarine, this was the only time that we went to test depth.

I cannot tell you how much I enjoy working with people who are smart and who know what the fuck they are doing.

» Operating Under the Thinning Arctic Ice-Cap

Here is an interesting 5-min video from CNN titled » The nuclear sub challenging Russia in the Arctic (14 March 2018).

US nuclear sub surfaces amid arctic ice

Can you not tell that these folks have their shit together?

Starting from a position where you are already sunk .. this means that you have less margin for error.

So fuck-ups mean more.

Excitement is not the thing you want. Boring is your friend.

I could continue .. but you feel me.

The end. ■

This saga continues here » Does that not Strike You as a Curious Thing? (Jan 11, 2018).

Return to the place where this entry originated » The Place where Imagination becomes Reality (Dec 25, 2017)

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This page contains a single entry by Rad published on January 1, 2018 1:01 AM.

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