Mama, Mama, can't you see,
What the Navy's done to me?
Sat me down in a chair,
When I looked, I had no hair!
I haven't written in a while.
I hope you'll forgive me; I spent the best week of my life here in Monterey with my wonderful girlfriend, who flew all the way out from Watertown just to be here. We attended the Navy Day Ball, went to the Northern California Renaissance Faire for its final day of the 2011 season, and visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We spent time just relaxing, watching movies (we got to watch the DVD from my boot camp graduation — having been lead drummer for the performances, I never got to really see the ceremony as it was going on). It was the kind of week that reminded me that, as much as I hate being on the other side of the country, the time I get to spend with this girl is well worth whatever time I have to wait.
Navy Day Ball is an experience that defies description. It really is. For one night, rank becomes virtually meaningless — oh, the formalities still exist, to be sure, but it's really a night for us all to enjoy ourselves, and celebrate the legacy of which we've made ourselves a part. Everyone, from the seaman apprentices to the admirals, are just there to celebrate.
And if any of our nation's military branches know how to celebrate, it's the Navy. Trust me. If you've ever been served a meal prepared by a Navy chef, you know what I'm talking about. And if you haven't, well ... you need to get on that. Suffice to say, we neither thirsted nor hungered that night. Dinner was accompanied by the Navy Day ceremony; this year, the Navy celebrated not only 236 years defending America on the high seas, but also 100 years of Naval aviation. A Vice Admiral (I forget his name), spoke at great length about it, and then the real fun began. Fascinating as the history lesson was, it's called the Navy Day Ball, not the Navy Day lecture. We were there for dancing, and that's exactly what we did. Junior enlisted, senior enlisted, officers, and flag officers, all shared the dance floor as one that night. I even taught my girlfriend some basic swing dance steps (yes, some sailors still know how to swing dance)!
The day after the ball, we made our way to the Northern California Renaissance Faire, which was no less entertaining. Sometimes, I fear I was born in the wrong era — as might be suspected, when I tell you my favorite sport is jousting (kid you not!). Ren faires are always a blast, especially for wicked geeks like myself. It was a special treat, being able to share the experience with my girlfriend, who was experiencing her first ren faire.
Following the weekend, I went back to performing my duties during the weekdays, but afternoons were ours again, and we spent the first afternoon at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is one of the finest aquariums I've ever visited. It's right on the beach, and when we had walked through the whole place, we stepped outside and just looked out onto Monterey Bay (my girlfriend loves the ocean — the smile on her face when she looks out across the water is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen).
The rest of the week was more laid back — I was on duty during the day, and the evenings became cold and rainy, which was great weather for staying in and watching movies. The end of the week was tough, though — the worst part of this life I've chosen is the number of times I have to say goodbye to those I care about, without having any idea when I'll be able to see them again.
Following that very amazing week, I had a very busy week, in which I stood four watches, led five or six colors details (I lost count), trained 13 newly-arrived sailors in our colors routine during two more details, and performed volunteer duty with Meals on Wheels. It was a long, long week — but one that I'm satisfied with, because I can sit back this weekend and take pride in having actually done something during the week. Today, it's my duty section's duty day, so I'm spending the day on base, relaxing and unwinding. I've been reading Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea — the original steampunk — on my Kindle; I can't believe what an amazing piece of technology that thing is. The next few days ought to be pretty laid back; tomorrow is my day to myself, then Monday and Tuesday it's back to the grind. Tuesday afternoon, I'll get to see my aunt and my grandmother, who I haven't seen since June.
They'll get to see me without hair. I used to have a lot of it, now I have none at all — I shaved it all, and I keep it that way by shaving every morning when I shave my face. It's still strange to me. All these years, I've ragged on my dad for going bald, and now he has more hair than I do. Makes me wish I'd ordered a Star Trek uniform for Halloween, so I could go as Captain Picard. Oh, well. There's always next year.
For now, though, I think I'll just enjoy the 70-80 degree weather here, where it's not snowing, and I don't have to shovel!