August 3, 2006 Thursday
How are you all, Home? Very soon we will hit our Halfway Day. This is going to be such a psychological victory, to know, at the very least, all we have to do is repeat everything we just did. And while there are many, many long and dull days behind me, it seems entirely doable to “redo” everything. What gets me through my days: I always of course remind myself that once this is over, it is all over. It is a little scary, but I’m too excited and primed for freedom of choice and movement to care very much. I hear very often about friends that are here or there, and they really have no idea what it is like to always have to report where you are going, and to, even in your “off” time, to still be at work. Yes, when I am not a sailor I still am one, and even when off the ship I have never been by myself, and gone anywhere alone (while on cruise). It makes a lot of complaints I hear from others seem silly. I do keep myself occupied, and we have a few port visits coming up that I am looking forward to. It is not like we are getting to “see” the world. We do not pull up to a port and we just get to unload and vacation for a few days. It is all very regimented and at most we get only a few hours to soak in as much as possible, of course all with a bevy of rules on us that makes us a bit afraid to have fun. Nothing bad, but I do feel like I should be wearing a crash helmet. They make us so afraid of everything, and it seems nearly everything has the possibility of–in their words, not mine–to cause us to break a leg, or something else. It makes me feel claustrophobic… Do we have any interesting one up-coming? Oui!
I have not gotten very much for myself as far as souvenirs. I got a German stein in March, and I got a small painted vase from Crete. I want things that will make me look traveled and worldly. I have them all packed away safely. The other thing I am collecting are small flags from each country, so I am excited to hear a new country that I have never been to. One day though I will have to return and actually see these places properly. I am really only getting a taste for it all. But I have a few flags, and I will hang them in my college room. If I can’t find one for each I might have to buy them later once I return home.
But my days do stretch on, and there are a lot of gaps in-between to fill. I spend a lot of time reading, of course. I work out in the small gym, and I try to avoid watching TV–except for the news and a baseball game or two–or a lot of movies. Movies are always being played regardless, during meals and such.
Laundry is done by berthing (there are three berthings), and my berthing (Combat Systems) has laundry done on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It is washed by the Supply Department. My mesh bags are divided into darks and whites, but they usually come back damp, so I dry them in the head (bathroom), with the hand-drier.
I usually do not eat breakfast, unless it is Sunday brunch. The breakfasts are always the same, so it have been turned off to it, but I still try to get some cereal or eggs or fruit with some morning coffee. (For flavor I put hot chocolate powder in) The meals are themselves none too healthy. Yesterday was cheeseburgers, and today for lunch is pizza. I try to be healthy, opting for the fish and chicken (ugh… always it is chicken…) rice, and salads. A typical salad: greens, carrots, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, cauliflower, cucumbers, cheese, mushrooms, ham, with Thousand Island dressing.
They also serve a “mid-rats” meal of leftovers at eleven at night, but I rarely stay up for that. In the last days I have been trying to get more sleep, perhaps the best reason being that the next day will come all the sooner. Above my bed–inches above, for better viewing–is all the postcards and pictures I have to never, never give up. Thank you.
A typical morning will begin at six for me. For some time I tried to stay in bed until the very last moment until seven, but I’ve gotten into a routine now that I like to go to the computer as soon as I’m awake to collect all the emails that were sent to me in the night. It puts me in a much better mood, I find easily, and this gets me over the hump of starting my day, and makes everything all the more bearable. After shaving–I can’t wait until I can be lazy about this just because I can be!–and dressing in my coveralls (a loose, blue, second skin, really, and all I ever wear) I head for Quarters, like every day. They “put things out” for us (this is one of those military terms I am not sure if it correct to say, or would get odd looks by civilians. This normally means cleaning, but we could also have some kind if drill to run, just as we have done it many, many times before. So you play the game, dust a little, find a little time to get further in a book, check email, write a postcard or letter, clean more, look busy in any way you can, go to lunch and then spend the rest of the meal hour reading more. In the afternoon, after checking email, I’ll try to appear as if I’m doing something, and watch the clock until the mid-afternoon, when it is safer to slow down and then finally stop. Perhaps nothing got done that day, but the point is you got through it, and another day is gone. That’s it. So after checking email a few more times while I catch up our heaven-sent news channel for CNN or a Dog-days game of baseball (the Cubs are never on anymore, as they don’t have a good enough record to be televised), I’ll retire to berthing, to take a shower. I pull off my coveralls, take off my old on-life-support boots, wrap a towel around me and put on my shower shoes. Usually both shower stalls are available, even when sharing with 70 other men, and at least there is always hot water. This is a definite happiness that I am surprised was lost on me this long. It feels good to be clean (or a reasonable facsimile of it) and pull on fresh boxers and a t-shirt before slipping into my sleeping bag. I might read a little more with my night-light, or dreams might be preferable. As I drift off I always think about what tomorrow’s date will be, and how much closer that sounds to being home.
There is nothing I really need, but if you’d like to send a package of foods that would be enjoyable. I’m looking forward to beginning the journalism textbook you sent. I will try to think of other books I would like. August will be filled with Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe.
Sorry if it seems like you have read this email several times before. I forget sometimes what I’ve written about and what is “new.” It’s all sort of like “Groundhog’s Day” to me, but I do have a few nice things to look forward to, and I am very excited for the mail that will soon be arriving. Hopefully the mail will also be outgoing as well! I’m really okay, and you shouldn’t worry about me. I will be home before you know it, and I am taking are of myself as best I can. I try to think of people who have had it just as bad- in terms of monotony, the worst part of it. Immediately there are the soldiers in Iraq, who put me and my little boat trip to shame, and even to the submariners, like the story I shared of the Toledo. Then there is John McCain, who is a perfect person to look up to and know he did so much even after being tortured for five years. If he became a Senator after that I have nothing to fear, and I can better look to my own future. Well, it is now lunchtime, so I have to get in line and grab my plastic tray…