Over the 4th of July weekend I bought and read Robert Kaplan’s “Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts” and learned a lot about our changing Military and the things we do around the world. For those of you with a lot of military familiarity it’s probably nothing new, but my exposure to our Armed Services is rather thin and distant, so this book was eye-opening and increased the depth of my appreciation.
The section on the mysterious undersea world of Submariners was especially interesting and revelatory.
Kaplan embeds with a marine platoon in the the African sahel who are on a training mission with troops from Niger, goes up to Alaska to meet with Air Force and Army National Guard troops training there, and then down to Thailand, Okinawa, and Singapore to board a Navy destroyer for a month at sea, and then onto a fast attack nuclear submarine re-crossing the Pacific. And more. It’s all pretty astonishing.
As a kid I remember reading a book about the dramatic exploits of Subs and their crew during WWII, and about a year ago we went on board the USS Pampanito docked up at Pier 45, during one of our infrequent visits to The City. It’s a floating museum now, smelling like musty old G.I. web gear, grease and hot oil – and you can easily understand the intimacy, fear, and claustrophobia of it’s era – but the ships of today are vastly different, and peopled by very different men.
And there’s my (today’s) coffee cup. In the distance you can see my very sturdy old glasses from 5th or 6th Grade.
My parents had found them while cleaning up clutter and were going to donate them to poor children in Nicaragua, “Who have nothing.” I dissuaded them from that. They are hazy-scratched beyond belief making life’s view a fuzzy milkshake, and ugly. They are thick, ill-fitting and bent, and ruinous of self-image. I had hated them deeply and even though they let me see clearly they had hurt and shamed me. Why inflict that horror on some poor-damn-poor-kid? Even the indigent have pride and self-respect especially kids with their youthful innocence – there is no need to shatter their world and drag them down, to break them on the wheel. So I took them and keep them to remind me.
Hope you-all had a happy 4th of July.