Friday, August 6, 2010

It's Time for a Cool Change

This is a continuation of a series of writings about my time in the Navy. The first in this series of posts can be found here or go here for the most recent.

2nd week of December 1979. (5 days to go)

Jack was strumming his guitar down in our compartment.  There was a song he'd occasionally play that he wrote with a friend which I liked a lot and I asked him if I could hear it one last time. I got out my Panasonic tape player and recorded him.

The Whale Song

Stan put together a small going away party for me at his apartment a few nights before I left for home. Not that we needed any special reason to get together for beer but it was nice of him. I commented in my journal how some of the talk that night was about the speculation of a coming recession and the prospects for jobs. It's possible I was observing the successes of Navy career counselors doing their best to retain sailors nearing the end of their enlistment but a recession did, in fact, loom just around the corner.

The night before I re-entered civilian life, Paul Smurawski surprised me with tickets to see Fleetwood Mac at the Arena. Fleetwood Mac was in their prime and it was a show I'll never forget. There I was, watching the concert knowing that my enlistment would be over the next day and I was about to take back control of my life. At my young age of 22, it seemed that I'd been waiting a long time for this and I was enjoying the moment.

Monday morning finally arrived and it was a typical sunny blue-sky-day in San Diego. There was nothing anticlimactic about it. Howard loaned me his truck to run some errands and as I was cruising the San Diego Freeway, Supertramp's Take the Long Way Home was playing on the radio. I let out a scream that I couldn't contain; a scream that expressed joy, happiness, and freedom. Funny thing though—I stayed on the ship that night even though I was technically a civilian as my flight didn't leave until early the next morning. After four years, one more night wouldn't matter.

Taken from my journal, 12-11-1979

Well, so much for the Navy. Airborne somewhere over Colorado on the last leg of my journey. The morning came early at 3:45. Stan gave me a lift to the airport.

What are my feelings? Euphoric, apprehensive, and a little scared. What's next? You tell me. The Navy was quite an experience to say the least. As for future plans, the next 8 months are mine to do with as I please. School begins afterwards. Architecture remains the goal but yet tentative it is. I've never been able to plan too far in the future. I can but then it's not uncommon to find myself making new plans. It used to be I wouldn't pursue much of anything because the Navy occupied so much of my time. I must scratch that excuse and be a do-er. Time to see what I've got...lose the inhibitions and take on a more aggressive view.

And that was it. Done.

I found work at Medical Inc making artificial heart valves while looking through a microscope 8 hours a day. It was tedious but enjoyable work. They paid me $5.50 an hour to start; the same wage they'd have paid a kid right out of high school.

Several months after getting out I enlisted in the Navy Reserves to make some extra cash while going to school but it was a short-lived experience. I quit after one weekend after observing the unit I'd be assigned to sweat a whole lot of small details about an upcoming inspection. I was done with that.

I did indeed begin classes at Inver Hills Community College in the Fall. I found myself enjoying school much more than ever and maintained a 4.0 for the time I was there before hiring on with the FAA the following Spring on the heels of the PATCO strike of August 1981. I nearly took a pass on the FAA's offer because I wanted to remain in school. At my dad's urging, I followed through with the interviews and hiring process with the idea that I could back out of the job at any time and continue the life I was living. Thanks, Dad. (I'm not sure I ever got to express my thanks to him before he died too young.)

The last line from my journal is a lyric from Gerry Rafferty's song Baker Street:

And when you wake up it's a new mornin'
The sun is shinin' it's a new morning
You're goin'
You're goin' home

The lyric was appropriate but Cool Change by The Little River Band was the song that caused me to pause each time I'd hear it; it still does. I felt that while all of my family was encouraging to me, they'd all be watching me to see what I'd do with my life and would I pick up where I'd left off? I needed to find my own way and I still wasn't sure what that would look like.

You can never be sure.

Thanks for reading.

4 years of photos: page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4


Anonymous said...


Just wanted to say that I've enjoyed reading some of your posts about life on the USS Fresno and life in general. I served on the Fresno as the first Communications Officer. (late 1969 until April 1972.) Plankowner.

Best wishes in the future.

Jim Alexander
Waco, TX

Anonymous said...

Kevin, I have also enjoyed reading and reminiscing about our experiences aboard the FREZ and about "LIFE" also the PIC"S especially the one's of the Philippines/SUBIC Bay JEEPNEY's !
Mike Milner

Kevin said...

Jim and Mike,

Thanks for the kind words. Best wishes to you both.