The U.S.S. Inferno, with Cameos by Knights, Mormons, and Superman

written June 4, 2006



Again it is Sunday, as we continue to shoot the sequel to Waterworld without cameras, or a script.

I really don’t know where the time goes, honestly.  It isn’t like we’re (the sonar division) very busy- we’re not even standing watches at the moment! You’d think I would have much more opportunity.  I have only been back with sonar for less than a week, after being farmed out so long to the damage control shop. By far I enjoy being where I am now.  There is an unsaid, but alluded to hierarchy here, on the Elrod that cannot be unique to this single frigate, one that reminds me of Dante and the three divisions of hell.  Go with me on this, I’m not simply trying to be snide:

As I have alluded in the past it goes without saying that the engineers have it worst- longer hours, more unpleasant conditions, the resulting mood harsher between them because of it.  Fittingly for my metaphor they reside in the bowels of the ship (the deck division, or boatswain’s mates, get honorable mention in this category for the painting, chipping, and repainting cycles that constitutes their fairly wretched lives.  Deck guys near by are right now talking about how, quite correctly, a) they have worked every day without relief since leaving b) that the last port was a “working” one, that c) today they have to work, and d) the next port will be “working.”  It is insane.

Continuing, the middling ground of Hades is held by the Supply department, those denizens of cramped ship’s offices that would make Dilbert laugh.  They work on the deck above the engines.  And now we get to where I now am, the Combat Systems department.  To illustrate the rare air, a few days ago Lambert and Martinez called our division together for a little private talk, of how we can continue to keep our ghost-pepper of a Chief off of our backs and continue to run things more or less on our own.  We really do have it very good when we have to discuss how to look busy enough through the day to not get in trouble.  One part good for stamina’s sake, but also one part ludicrous that we have to pretend to be doing things in the United States military.  Sign up today!  A lot of waste comes from things being poorly planned and floating; often I have half an hour until this, twenty minutes until that… just enough time to pull out a book and read a page or just sit and wait.  So much for it is perception: a “busy” person is an effective person, so we fake being busy, cleaning things that aren’t dirty, etc.  We still have it as good as anyone here though, a heaven in the depths- or more like a purgatory.

    *    *    *    *    *

I got to flash a bit of my natural ability the other day.  Ginty and I were cleaning berthing; somewhere, from nothing, suddenly sprang a discussion of Literature!  It began when I asked Ginty how he liked “The Knight’s Tale” portion of The Canterbury Tales; he said it didn’t seem to have much a message in the end, that it was just a series of actions taken by characters without connection.  I agreed somewhat, because often in the Middle English era the themes were beginning to blossom, but the manner in which they were narrated were still staid and stale.  The knights, brothers, themselves battle each other for a single girl, and much of the story of an exploration of “the grass is always greener.”  But it’s accomplished by saying “He did this” and then “He did that.”  So much of it, I said, still was tied so heavily to a Fatalistic viewpoint.  The oldest stories, like Gilgamesh and the Iliad that I was finishing, dealt with cardboard heroes, extremes of humanity, that was always Destined.  Even up to the Victorian Age of a hundred years ago, novels like The Mill and the Floss (I still shudder when I think of that book…) and a Romantic story like Wuthering Heights still trapped their characters into one path within fate had complete control.  One of my favorite subjects when we talk about things like this is the evolution of character depth throughout time, which we touched on with the older stories we are all reading.  In one respect, I like that characters are now actually human, with frailties and fears.  This is a very new thing, but in one respect always gets me down.

And that is when it comes to Superman.  I love the guy.  I like- no, I absolutely admire, the integrity of Superman.  What drew me to the character when I was young and believed what the world could really be like I find in him.  Of course, Superman is not en vogue.  His comic sales are down, and is derisively called the Big Blue Boy Scout.  While other superheroes have a dark past or inner conflict– like a Batman, Wolverine, or Spider-Man– Superman is just doin’ fine:  Have a great hair day, vanquish the villain, and be home in time for his nine o’clock bedtime.  But something about this troubles me, that we can’t find this symbol of what goodness is as something corny and laughable.  It makes me think we believe less in such things, and those who espouse such values are out of touch.  I feel that here (as I debate whether the average Navy sailor is a barometer for the common American),

Hold on… I have to move to another place; they are about to have a Sunday service here… OK, I’m down in the sonar room now.  I was asked if I want to stick around as well.  Part of me, honestly, just wants to say I’m Jewish or something for the looks on their face, the “um, you chose the wrong one” expression.  I know it comes from this absolutism I see all the time, from which manifests an unquestioning nature.  I hate that, don’t you? (Perfect point: two days ago as we pulled away from a tanker that had just refueled us a song was blared over the intercoms, as usual.  The song: Born in the USA, the military unwittingly rocking out to a protest song, all because ‘USA’ is in the title.  Made me smile.).  The religion part, however, makes me think of four years ago now, when I was in boot camp.  On Sunday mornings people who wished to “express their religious prerogatives” were allowed to go to the chapel on the other side of the base.  All well and good, and all of the faiths were available, from Eastern Orthodox to Islam.  I sampled them all- what a perfect opportunity, all under one unexploded roof.  I went to a Jewish service, to a Mormon, all.  Even read the Book of Mormon.    The guys that stayed behind on Sunday mornings though had to clean though, so many went to get out of work.  And so it goes.  That happens here too, but it gets on my nerves less than the Cigarette Break Defense.  What a smoke screen.

I will tell you the status of my going to school now.  Remember that a few that were in my division are no longer with us, for various reasons?  Like, I don’t know, 1) going AWOL in February so he didn’t have to go on the last deployment or 2) saying he would kill himself if he had to go?  Now we are, to use the term, “undermanned.”  Imagine that.  This is what I was told the second day we were gone when I finally turned what was my package into Chief Weaverling: that because we didn’t have enough people it looked unlikely he could spare me for whatever time I wanted.  I was very distraught for a day, but my mind kept working.  ‘Let them keep me as a DCPO,’ I reasoned three weeks ago, ‘and then let them say they need me.’  They must have seen this catch as well, because soon I was brought back to sonar. I am not the only entrapped at the moment; Cliff is in the same boat, and had is request to get out rejected by the CO and XO for the very reason we feared.  Cliff was under different circumstances at least, asking for a sooner date, to go begin school at the University of South Carolina for the fall.  The biggest problem was that this was in the middle of this deployment, and was a bit of a stretch from the beginning.  At least I am, as it has always been, asking to begin after we are back.  They are looking at this all from the present angle only though, not even wanting to entertain that, months from now, the situation might change and replacements might even be possible.  That is why, weeks later, I have still have fine-tuning my package, redoing the paper work to including university letterheads instead of just emails, anything to make it as airtight and professional as possible.  I finished it last night.  I just hope it is not picked through at the various levels, taking apart what I have worked to put together, as is often the case.  I want it all to reach the captain.  Already out here, I have had to wrap my mind around the idea of being in the Navy until April.  I will probably not hear about my request for a month or more, and no matter what this most important news my life will be given to me all too casually.

Although these are the things going through my mind, I am feeling better than the picture my words are painting.  I have a picture of you walking along the sands of Corolla taped above my pillow, along side the picture of me with my family you took during the holidays.  They make me always smile, and just look forward to coming home.

In my off time I’ve also been transferring the pictures I’ve taken with my digital to my laptop, and burning some CDs for you.  I’m not able to watch the videos at the moment, without Quick Time (we must have deleted it as well that day), but they are safe, and if you have QT I can at least send them to you.  I know someone around here will have a QT Installer.  Right now I am typing away, listening to some 60’s music from my laptop as I type away, and I am reminded now this is the kind of music you also like to play on Sundays. Here, many of the guys I walk by every day will never raise much beyond the menial.  Their state, from my vantage point, makes your accomplishments all the higher and rarefied.

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