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  • Another reason I did so well in Boot Camp was that it was an ideal set-up for someone with my personality type. Much later, I would learn, through the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MPTI) personality profile testing, that I am an off-the-charts “E” in the one component of personality type, where you’re determined to either be an extrovert or an introvert. What that means is, I draw more energy from being around other people than I do through things like reading and being by myself. I’m definitely an extrovert. This kind of makes me a freak among writers, who tend more towards the introvert side of the equation, but there’s no question that I am an E.

    In Boot Camp, you’re constantly surrounded by all the people in your company, which really brought me out of myself. I enjoyed having all those people around all the time, and made a lot of friends in Boot Camp. I'm a naturally gregarious person. I did manage to have my own quiet time when I needed it, taking the time to meditate early in the mornings, as that became a regular practice there, as well.

    There was a big graduation ceremony at the end of Boot Camp. The Color Guard performed in the ceremony, just like we had in the previous three graduation ceremonies before ours. All the graduating companies lined up on the ceremonial grinder (lot), the commanding officer gave a rousing speech, wishing us well in our careers and emphasizing how important we were to America’s defense, after which they played “Anchors Aweigh”:
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    "Anchors Aweigh, my boys, Anchors Aweigh.
    Farewell to college joys, we sail at the break of day-ay-ay-ay.
    Through our last night ashore, drink to the foam,
    Until we meet once more:
    'Here's wishing you a happy voyage home'."

    (Words And Music: Capt. Alfred H. Miles U.S.N. and Charles A. Zimmerman )
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    We were now officially, certified sailors. Since I was in the Nuclear program, I immediately got promoted to an E-3 rank upon graduation.

    One of the great things about Boot Camp graduation for me was, my brother Ken came to see it. He was in the Air Force, but took leave, from wherever he was stationed at the time, to come all the way out there to be there as I embarked on my Navy career. It meant the world to me to have a family member there to enjoy my achievement with - kind of validated the experience, made it a little more real and relevant. I left there filled with optimism, and really happy about joining the Navy.
  • We got to take a weekend of “liberty” there in San Diego, before we actually went on our first “leave”, where we could spend a week or so to go home, or do whatever we wanted to do, before reporting to our next duty station.

    Ken hung out with me in San Diego for my first weekend of freedom. I had heard a lot about the massage parlors in San Diego. I had 2 months’ worth of pay burning a hole in my pocket, so I wanted to check them out. I was unaware, at the time, that Ken was gay; but he humored me, and we went to one of these parlors together. They were well known for providing a “happy ending” after you got your massage – a true sailor’s delight! I still shudder when I think of dragging him to one of those joints!

    My family had moved to New Jersey while I was going through Boot Camp, but I still went back to Connecticut for my first few days of leave, to see Sarah and some of my other friends from the Pilgrim Fellowship back there. Sarah and I went on our first “date” of sorts, when I took her to a carnival up in Springfield, Massachussetts. I was still really enjoying her company, and she mine, and we had a really nice time together.

    We were taking it nice and slow, and that felt right. I was really beginning to feel like she might be the girl I wanted to spend my life with, even then, although I had learned not to rush such things, so I kept my more serious feelings cool, for the time being. It just felt different with her – I felt so warm and comfortable with her, not that head-over-heels feeling of falling in love that I had felt with Martha. I didn’t know if that was something you were supposed to feel with someone you loved, or if it had just been a one-shot deal, that never panned out, with Martha.
  • Some of my other friends there seemed to have a hard time dealing with the new me, all crew cut and squared away, and seemingly straight, now. I still felt like the same person inside, just had a different outer image, and I felt like I was thinking a lot clearer than I ever had. It upset me a little that some of these “friends” couldn’t see that.

    At that point, I was into drinking beer, but was trying to stay away from getting high, as it seemed to mess me up too much, and made me feel depressed, which I didn’t like feeling. One of them even told me that they didn’t think they could hang out with me anymore. I chaulked that friendship up as one I could probably do without, if they couldn’t see beyond appearances to who I really was.

    I felt like I still had long hair – it was all just on the inside of my head, now! I also felt like I didn’t need to smoke something to feel good, to feel high – I was getting high on life, which I thought was good enough for me at the time.

    This clearer sense of things wouldn’t last long. My next assignment was to Great Lakes, Illinois, for Machinist Mate “A” School, where I would learn all about operating the standard machinery in a ship’s Engine Room, and how a typical shipboard propulsion plant worked. It was a pretty easy school, a 3 month-long program, not real challenging intellectually. I fell in with a pretty wild, free spirited sailor there, who liked to party hardy, and despite my better intentions, I wound up pretty much in a drunken, cloudy fog for most of my time there.

    Looking back, this is where alcoholism and addiction first really began to assert themselves in my life. That was where I learned how to get the job done, and keep the authorities relatively happy, while I kept myself pretty wasted most of the time. I didn’t want to be living like that – but, I just went with it, as it was easier than trying to fight it. I would find the Navy to be the perfect place for a good alcoholic/addict to thrive. I had lots of company!
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