It’s been some 27 years! A warm November late afternoon, Pier Four, San Diego… treading ever so slightly as I made my way aboard!! The recollections grow strong, with every sight, sound and smell the impression still colorful and sharp in those old cerebral memory banks!!!
Up the pier, I hesitated and glared at the numbers painted on the hull! ‘1069’ emblazoned in black, and what do you know, it was my new forwarding address, my new home away from home! I know… we’ve all ‘been there, done that'... We all share those little moments, those flashbacks, déjà vu of the past!! We’re all linked together like a band of idiots reminiscing the greatest time of our lives!!!
Up the brow to the Quarterdeck I climbed, not sure what to expect, almost afraid of what was coming next!
“This is it!”
… I remember thinking…
“This is my first ship… the real Navy!”
The enormity of it all, the beauty of the water and the Ensign flapping in the wind just before colors!! I had images of the South Pacific in the warm night air and the little brown island gals doing what they do at night!! Of course that’s what all Crackerjacks dream about… Right?!?
On the Quarterdeck I saluted and dropped my Seabag as the Officer Of the Deck introduced himself and the ship! It wasn’t long before the Duty Master-At-Arms (MAA) whose credentials were looking like an orangutan, retrieved me and paraded me forward up port side!! I recall walking by the motor whale boat and dodging the greasy cables attached to the booms!! The smell is still lingering in my olfactory as the memories rush through the belfry of my brain!! The scent on its own was like no other!!!
Can you imagine the conversation… the banter… the comradery we all shared in those days?!?
“So we got ourselves a new Cabin Boy I see… the Skipper’s gonna be giddy I’m sure!”
“I ain’t no gauddamned Cabin Boy!”
“Relax handsome… we’re all shipmates around here… It’s the Navy way!”
So was my first introduction to ship’s company onboard the ol’ Baglady! Walking into the skin of the ship up by the ASROC Launcher Room the Rover met up with us…
“Aaah, a booter! What’s your rate?”
“OOOH we got a new Sea Bitch in Second Division! Welcome aboard Shippy!”
… And that was the ‘Hoz’ … later to become a dear friend onboard!!!
Down the ladderwell we went two decks to my new rack in Supply Berthing as there was no space in Weapons at the time! I can still remember the cramped space and dank smell down below!! We dropped off my things and headed up a deck and aft portside down the green tile of the passageway!!!
Several frames aft we turned inboard and down the P-way to midship turned right and through a hatch into the Messdecks! Thinking back I can hear the jaunts and jokes in the background bouncing off bulkheads…
“Rhotey, You don’t need seconds? You’re fat as fuck… I can hear the saturated fat falling off your fat ass as we speak!”
“Man, you’re like a canker sore… a canker sore that just won’t go away!”
“Oh man… get something to cover up that weeping vagina! It’s emitting a smell something fierce… I think I’m gonna throw up!”
“Aaah Fuck You!”
“HaHa… Fuck You Too!”
Yeah, a hundred thousand sea stories and a hundred thousand lines of bullshit had echoed the angle irons and overheads! Truths and half-truths… and one hundred percent full of bull shit!! I can still hear the clanging of the silverware and tin plates and the steam from the galley… anyone remember?!?
From there we strolled aft of the Messdecks passed the hatch going down to Engineering Berthing! Just passing the Chief’s Mess and the scullery, we headed to the MAA Shack!! That’s where the MAA issued my bedding and instructions for the next morning!!!
Then back from which I came to make my rack and discover the ship! Once up the ladderwell, forward portside and there was the Crew’s Lounge!! There was a few of the crew… mostly duty section, their dungarees dirty and mangy as they rested on their laurels from a hard day’s work!!!
Grinning to myself, I stood by the hatch watching my new shipmates milling around bitching about what’s not on the lobotomy box waiting to greet whoever or whatever…
“Look, it’s a fucking mutant dwarf standing in the doorway!”
“Hey, the little fucker’s built like a midget tank!”
“Don’t look at me like that… I’ll knock that smile right off…!”
“Hey, leave him alone… he’s a newbie! He doesn’t know the ropes yet!”
“Aaaaah man! I shit myself so bad your dead relatives will smell it!”
“EEEWWW FUUU…!” … “AAAAH Gross!”
… or something of that effect! At least that’s how I remember it!! These were some of my first memories on the ol’ Baglady!! A jumble of senses and emotions just knock’n the rust off and kick’n up dust in my brain… Funny, Sad, Scary, Exciting… all rolled up into a nice tight bundle!!!
You ol’ Salts remember… You were there!!!