Friday, September 18, 2009

Setting a New Course With Two Wheels

This is a continuation of a series of posts written about my time spent in the Navy in the mid to late 1970's. The most recent of those writings can be found here while the initial entry in this series is here.

We got back from our WestPac (Western Pacific) cruise in the Fall of 1976. It had been a busy year for me, especially considering that one year earlier joining the Navy was not on my radar while working dead-end jobs was. For the most part we'd spend the next 21 months in port in San Diego and in that time I'd fall in love with my home away from home; not the ship but the city.

I didn't own a car or even a bike so I walked most everywhere and would catch buses along the way. I did my share of hitch-hiking as well but eventually I'd stop thumbing for rides after having had too many encounters that left me questioning that cheap form of transportation. To quote a line from a favorite TV show from years ago; "No thanks, Chuck, I'll remain on my own."

I wasn't necessarily a loner but neither can I say that I was much of an after hours regular with the crowd of guys who made up our division. I'd go out with them occasionally in addition to some guys from other divisions and have a few beers but that was about it.

One of those outings was with Garry I. in December 1976. His brother had also been stationed on our ship and had finished his enlistment one week earlier and left his car behind for Garry to use. I don't know if Garry smoked dope much but he had some in the car with us; I knew he liked his beer. We were headed over to the Enlisted Mens' Club at the Naval Training Center on Point Loma and when we drove onto the base the guard at the gate motioned for us to pull around to where they were conducting random vehicle inspections. Garry stashed the dope in the door of the car but there was no hiding it from the nose of the German Shepherd accompanying the officers. Garry did his best to try and pass the dope off as something his brother must have left in the car and that he was unaware of its presence. The MPs weren't convinced.

After collecting our identification information they sent us over to the Military Police station on base and we walked inside. The first thing we saw beyond an officer on the phone at the front desk were two empty jail cells with their doors slightly open. Like a couple of knuckleheads we each took our place in one of the cells and latched the door shut. The officer soon finished his call and asked us why we were in the cells. We told him we'd just gotten busted for dope at the gate and figured we would be spending the night in jail. He laughed and then called us over to the desk and proceeded to fill out a police report on the matter which would be sent off to our ship and Commanding Officer. And that was that; we were free to go.

As we drove back to our ship, Garry had an idea that if we kept quiet and somebody else somehow put the word out that we got busted it would be a violation of our privacy rights and may possibly get us off. I had no idea if there was any merit to his plan but what else could we do? We agreed that neither of us would say anything to anybody about what had happened.

Mike Dugan was the Personnel Specialist who opened the mail the following Monday detailing our bust. It didn't take long for Mike to make his way to the living quarters we shared and remark to the others that it was a 'bummer about Gilmore and Ixxxxx getting busted the other night'. Say what? Everybody was all ears as it was the first they'd heard of it. I could only hope that Garry knew what he was talking about.

What exactly happened behind the scenes over the next couple weeks I have no way of knowing. Rather than go to Captain's Mast where these sort of things were typically handled and usually resulted in one to two months restriction to the ship in addition to a $250 fine, we were sent before the Executive Officer of the ship and received only a verbal admonishment. Had Garry been right all along? I asked no questions. The ordeal was behind us, or so I thought.

Years later at my job with the FAA I was a controller in training. I was told that there was a man from the FBI who wanted to talk with me. I couldn't imagine why anybody from the FBI would want to speak to me. I met him in a conference room where he closed the door and introduced himself as Agent King. He asked me about an incident a few years earlier involving a bust for marijuana while I was in the Navy. I described for him what had happened and stated that the charges were dropped and that I was surprised the incident was a part of my records. He took notes while I spoke. Our meeting lasted only a few minutes and in parting he told me that he'd be doing an investigation of his own. I never heard from him again.

Back on the ship and out from under the charges, I knew there was a reason I liked the solitude of my own company but I needed more than that.

A few months later I was at the Navy Exchange (a store on the base) where I spied a white Peugeot 10-speed. Having a nice road bike had been a desire of mine for a few years but that dream was shoved aside at 16 when I got my license. My bike would open up a new world to me and one where I'd make my health a focus. My riding would teach me discipline in a way I'd not known. This would be a good thing in so many ways.

To be continued...

No comments: