The story of a boy, who enlisted in the Navy, who became a man, who still retained the emotional maturity of that boy, yet convinced a woman to marry him.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

1976 Part VI: The Chief

In our last episode, a cackling conductor took great delight in dropping us off at Hell.  On the bright side, we got off the train...

31 AUG
Recruit Training Command
Great Lakes, Illinois
All Navy signal flags mean something.
I think these mean "Up Yours."
    Like a herd of scraggly, long-haired sheep, the two dozen of us followed our trip leaders to the main administration building across the street.  I didn’t know about the other guys, but Jimmy had taken to the leadership role with a vengeance.  Only last night, he rationed the dinner rolls like we were on a bakery lifeboat.
Pretty much how it was.
Only without screaming.
And liberal uses of the word 'fuck.'
Okay, it was nothing like this.

    Like a goggle-eyed tourist, I took in the sight of the pristine Navy base.  Two guards, dressed in blindingly white uniforms, flanked the main entrance like a couple of starched deaf-mutes.  Their eyes focused straight ahead, M-14 carbines held stiffly at their sides (I was to learn later that these rifles were completely empty.  They would only make for good weapons if the sentries clubbed you with them like you were a baby seal). 

    Two brass torpedoes, polished to blinding effect, rested on stanchions in front of two flagpoles holding aloft the Stars and Stripes and the Navy flag.  An empty gun turret stood off to one side.  As immaculate as everything else, it looked ready for action.

    Even though it was as empty as those M-14s, I wistfully imagined it discharging a shell at the now-leaving train.  I’ll bet that conductor would be shocked to have a shell lodged in his smirking kisser.

    Not knowing what else to do, we began to file like lemmings through the double-doors of the admin building.

John Paul Jones
Look familiar, anyone?
Yeah, I'm mischievous that way.
    In stark contrast to the outside, the inside was dark, cool, and deathly quiet.  I gawked at the many portraits hanging from the walls:  John Paul Jones, Chester Nimitz, and some guy with his pants on backwards and his head buried in the massive belly of another guy dressed only in a sheet.

    What the...?

    Suddenly, a huge man filled the hallway.  In addition to a scowl, he wore a short-sleeve khaki uniform with a braided red aiguillette (snooty French term for “cord”) looped around his left shoulder.  He was older than most of the Navy people with whom we’d dealt and sported a bushy, black moustache which curled around the corners of his mouth.  A faint aroma of cigarettes enveloped him like a cloud and the tattoo of a dragon (or some hideous lizard woman) crawled up his left forearm. 

    His black eyes glared at us from underneath a pair of unruly, equally black, eyebrows.

    “Get against that fucking bulkhead!  You’re in my Navy now, shitbirds!”

    Welcome to Hell, indeed.


    Company 269’s Company Commander wasn’t a bad sort, I suppose.

    Despite his gruff exterior and predilection to inject the word “fuck” (or a derivative thereof) into almost everything he said (“You shitbirds better get the fuck moving or you’re gonna be late for fuckin’ church.”), he really was a warm guy.

Yeah, see if we could get away
with our hands in our pockets
    “My name is Chief Gunner’s Mate John Hoffman and I am the Company Commander.  I have been in the Navy since before the best part of you dripped down your mother’s leg in the back seat of your father's car at the East Shithole Drive-In movie theater.  You sacks of shit will always refer to me as ‘sir’ or ‘Lord Almighty.’  When I speak to you, if you are lucky enough that I even recognize your pitiful existence, you will stand at attention, with your arms at your side, your eyes straight ahead, and your mouth shut.  I am not your friend, your buddy, or your shipmate.  For the next eight weeks, I will be your teacher, your coach, your counselor, your father, and your goddamn mother.  And, if I think you are worthy, I will grant you the opportunity in November of joining my beloved Navy.  But, until that day, it will be my sole mission in life to make you as miserable as I possibly can.”   


    In a “rip your head off and crap in the fuckin’ hole” kinda way.

  Sadly, this brings us to the end of It's Not Just a Job.  As I explained at Penwasser Place (oh, come now, does anyone NOT know I'm Al Penwasser and Al Penwasser is me?), I'm going to take a sabbatical.  
  Oh, wait, I never said 'sabbatical."  I did say 'epiphany,' though, which isn't exactly the same thing.  Because epiphany has Three Wise Men.  One of whom is black.  And I may be racist for pointing that out.
  I've been looking at the page views for this blog and they, quite frankly, aren't where I'd like them to be.  And, since there are some people from Russia who read this, I figure I'll just lay low.  Those people scare me.  And not just because their women are hairy and could crush me like a grape.
  So, until the book is finished, I shall bid you a fond adieu.
See, now there's a word you didn't see at Penwasser Place.
  But, it's French.  So...

You did see this picture though.
What a difference from the young dude at the top, huh?


  1. Replies
    1. Sorry, but I'll still be around. Kinda.

  2. Well I'm sure it took skill to work fuck into every sentence. Hopefully the book is coming along

    1. It is. In fact, I finished a chapter yesterday, "Sailor, Who Cut Your Hair?"

  3. So now I'm gonna have to wait a long time to find out about the mystery man with his pants on backwards in the photo?! Gee, your Chief Gunner's Mate sounds like he was worse than all of my gym teachers combined! Did you two ever become Facebook friends? Good luck with the rest of your book, Ken! I know it will be a great read!


  4. Oh you freaking swab jockey...
    I was catching up and reading these in the proper order! I love them! This was all a tease, right? No problem! Do what you gotta do my friend. I'll be anxiously awaiting the book. Take care and please drop by. I won't feel validated as a professional unless you comment on my posts.