While corresponding with the narrator for my upcoming audiobook of A World Ago: A Navy Man's Letters Home, 1954-1956, I had the occasion to go back through the recently-released e-book version, and came across this “transition” letter. It was the first I'd written since being dropped from the Naval Aviation Cadet program, but before I'd been transferred from Pensacola to Norfolk to begin a totally new phase of my navy experience. I hope you might enjoy it, and even decide you might like to read (or, when it is released, listen to) the book.
Sunday, 8 August, 1955
This is the first letter I’ve written in my long (10 days) career as a whitehat. This isn’t at all strange, since most whitehats are not given credit for the intelligence to write their own names, let alone a letter.
The Navy has, I figure, spent out something like $30,000 on me—and what do they have to show for their money? Well, I can sweep floors, and polish brass doorknobs, and paint walls, which you must admit are very necessary—they are, as the posters say, preparing us for a career—as busboys, janitors, and third-rate house painters. I don’t suppose it is necessary to add that I detest the Navy wholeheartedly
The final stages in the degeneration of a character are preceded by such things as writing letters in pencil. However, since I have misplaced my pen (again) and, since writing with a pen would be far too pretentious for one of my lowly station, I must be satisfied with pencil. Let’s pretend it is brown ink.
This is my last letter from Pensacola. Tonite, while walking “home” from the Gedunk, I looked at the lights shining from all the windows, and at their reflections on the white pillars and porches; and I remembered the first time I’d seen them, just eight days short of a year ago. I have been through a lot since then, but the Gulf and the night and the buildings are still the same.
And during the day I watch them—the cadets in stiffly clean khakis marching to and from classes with their book bags. And then I see the indoctrinees—bewildered looking kids in civilian clothes with their close-cropped hair, stumbling over their own feet, looking in awe at anyone with a solo bar. I can’t help but wonder where they’ll be, a year from now.
Tomorrow I shall be on my way to Norfolk, Virginia. Funny, but I still think of myself as a cadet—at least as something apart from the guys around me. Tomorrow will bring the awakening, when I leave for good.
In the slight irony department, we have an angry young lady named Connie. She is a hurricane. Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve hoped for a hurricane—to see or be in one—and it will strike sometime next week—when I am safely inland, where hurricanes never reach. Oh, well.
Last week we had a tropical storm named Brenda—she never became a hurricane, but was very interesting nevertheless. Mother, remember Santa Rosa Island, where you picked up your seashells, on the way to Fort Pickens? Well, much of that road was washed away as waves rolled over the island. I walked down to the seaplane ramps, and watched the huge waves smashing themselves against the sea wall, colliding with one another in great cymbal-crashes of spray.
Been to a movie every night now for two weeks—yes, I still love them—also there is nothing else to do with yourself.
This place is positively and literally swarming with amusing reddish-brown, many-legged little insects. I have yet to open my locker and fail to find at least half a dozen staring placidly at me, or strolling casually across my underclothes. Oh, well, I suppose they’re better than scorpions or rattlesnakes, but not much.
Enough rambling for now—the pencil and my mind are rapidly becoming duller. I’d best find some ink to sign the envelope—I will not sink so low as to address a letter in pencil.
Hope you had a nice vacation, dad. Regards to all from
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which will shortly also be available as an audiobook.