Thursday, September 29, 2011


There’s an old joke once told me as to why the four armed services, because of “linguistic differences”, could never succeed in any sort of joint operation. It concerns each being told to “secure” a building. The Army, if so ordered, would only turn off the lights, shut the doors, and go home. The Navy would lock all the doors and not permit anyone else to enter. The Marines would assault the place with mortars, grenades and machine guns. The Air Force would take out a three-year lease with option to buy… A recent re-connection with an old friend stationed with me at Imperial Beach, California, has me “pushing my brain”, trying my best to recall more than just a few blurry mental snapshots of people and events in my life over fifty years ago. I was nineteen, fresh out of boot-camp, and going through what e referred to as “ditty school”, Navy jargon meaning lessons concerned our learning Morse Code. The base was located about twenty miles from San Diego if one skirted the perimeter of the bay, but the Coronado ferry provided a much quicker way for young sailors to reach the inner city. We were next to the last class before the base would close its doors and cease to be, the facility, therefore, much like a small collection of older buildings scattered here and there on a mile-long strip of land positioned a few hundred yards off the Pacific beach. As I recall, there was a movie theater, a mess hall, and something akin to a television rec-room for the enlisted men. Mostly what I remember about the latter is some pinball machines in the rear. The rest is blank other than a juke box possessing the tune “Cherry, Cherry Pie”. My memories of that mess hall involve a few weeks of KP served, my only assigned duty being the creation of “Mona Lisa” cottage cheese platters. We had lockers off base for those trips into town and the occasional forays into Tijuana, the first offering me Road Runner cartoons and the renown zoo, the second, well, let’s just say I discovered it unwise to mix beer and hard liquor in Mexico. Maybe my most vivid recollection, though, is standing late-night watch duty, walking the halls of what was known as “the Cage” because of the fence surrounding that particular facility. Whether there was any real reason for such security, I know not, and to now sketch any sort of floor plan of the place would be impossible; but the strange noises emanating from within at three or four in the morning, the habit of the water cooler’s motor to suddenly erupt and groan as one passed by at such time, has stayed with me through the years. Indeed, for whatever reason, a vague image of its appearance from outside has always come to mind when telling the above joke……

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