Mostly True Tales from the Navy

1 / NAS North Island 

Sometimes legends are born from shallow unassuming moments…

So it was: mid 70’s; Naval Air Station North Island. We were off duty, sitting around the dorm room table, smoking dope and drinking beer.

Denny Freeman starts drawing on the tabletop. Young Kerr, Pritchard, and I join in. We liberate a paint set from the rec center and do a half decent nearly pornographic rendition of “Venus on the Half Shell”.

We sign our spontaneous artwork with blood red lacquer fingerprints.

To this day, sailors come from afar to view the table and imagine the fate of the four unknown painters.

Music: "Amazing Grace" Kevin MacLeod (
(reverb filter applied)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

2 / Millington

I called him Red because of his fiery hair and disposition.

We were in his white Chevy pickup blowing down highway 51 from Millington into Memphis.

He was exceedingly animated, ranting about a solid horn section being essential to the blues and how I was bat shit crazy for favoring electric guitar.

The dead on headlights and horn blare of a Piggly Wiggly semi caught him mid tirade.

With manic laughter, Red cut us off road into the mud, escaping certain death by inches.

Grinning in the dashboard light, Red actually looked crimson and I could’ve sworn he had horns.

Music: "Nile's Blues" Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

3 / Christmas 1982

Regret is a heavy burden.

Take it from me:

If you find yourself living on the coast in a cheap drafty apartment that is more like a shack meant for summer rental but you’re there in the dead of winter trying to save a few bucks.

And if you’ve stretched out those few bucks to put as many presents under the tree as possible for your family but your five year old gets up before anyone else and opens every present by herself.

Then just laugh. Laugh like a drunken sailor.

Then you will have one less regret to carry.

Music: Sonata No. 8 in C Minor Pathetique, Op. 13 - II. Adagio cantabile 
Ludwig van Beethoven  

4 / Between Two Worlds

Again she appeared, the girl with the flaxen hair and the sky blue eyes, imploring me to understand: the bear had come, his strong arms offering comfort from the uncertainty of the storm.

Where was she to turn? What decision was hers? All sides had hidden intent.

I reached for her but she backed away and began sinking into the opaqueness of the sea.

That’s when I awoke, somewhere in the western Pacific, fighter jets scrambling on the flight deck above the enlisted quarters rack where I lay clinging to the recurring dream, holding my breath between two worlds again.

Music: Caligaverunt Oculi Mei (with paulstretch filter)
Tomas Luis De Victoria 

5 / Fire Party

If I had joined the Navy seeking adventure, working nights on an aircraft carrier certainly would have fit the bill. However, I hadn't. But there I was anyway, on the flight deck next to that fully loaded F4 with the engine fire.

Hats off to those reckless sailors who hurtled towards the pending disaster; the Air Ops Fire Party; all gung-ho and "can do" grit.

We nicknamed them "Doomers."

Me? I was the peckerhead that dove into the catwalk, furthest I could get from those sidewinder missiles and that full tank of JP5.

Call me "just wanting to stay alive."

Music: "Dad's Getting' Fuzzy" by Dutch Coleman and Red Whitehead / Creative Commons Public Domain Mark 1.0

6 / Shipmate Personality Number Three

Hard Luck Harwich had a cloud of doom that followed him everywhere. And he liked to tell people about it; whether it was his latest ache or something bad he ate or the fate of his late Aunty June. You’d get an earful. In fact, he’d try to talk you to death.

Then one day he heard that annoying song playing in the background of his life and he thought:

“What if I’m really happy and I just don’t know it?”

That thought instantly cheered him up. And he clapped and the cloud went away.

But everyone still avoided him.