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From boys to Men
“The Worlds Finest Dive School” Those were the first words I read walking through the main entrance.
A life sized manikin stood on the quarterdeck, looking like an amphibious Darth Vader commanding the bridge of an imperial ship; that sign proudly hung around its neck.
A Dräger is not a monster. It's a dive apparatus designed to rescue submarine-crew. The U.S. military calls it the LAR-V Re-breather and one sat on Vader's chest (not behind like regular dive tanks). Two dark rubber corrugated tubes protruded from the top of its square housing. They curved in opposite directions meeting below its nose connecting the mouth piece. Now this was a place to be one of the boys I thought.
Darth was loaded with assault gear, black Viking bag, machine gun and mask; the sign should have read, "Worlds Scariest Manikin". I pulled fire watch duty one night for being a wise ass (better know as being one of the boys) and couldn't stop looking at it. Other plastic people were freakishly adorned all around me; I felt like I was in a frogman wax museum. I occupied my time by writing down all of the names of girls I had slept with to that point. That took a while, not because there were so many, I'm just not good with names.
What it's like diving a Dräger:
A re-breathers design is perfect for stealth infiltration and exfiltration. No bubbles, compact and it's light weight; Spec Ops travel undetected. You can talk underwater (more like mumble) if you put your mouth up to another diver’s ear. (Very handy in this environment) Diving with a re-breather is dream like. Sometimes an ocean, sometimes a river, in graceful silence, we navigated like a flock of snake birds in pitch blackness.
This was an awesome school and was born to do this stuff, however, I was prone to getting in trouble. My breath smelled and pores reeked of alcohol. My instructor tongue lashed me for my condition and said it was easy to be one of the boys. To him that wasn’t a good thing. I guess I could have screwed up in the water but he wasn't even talking about that.
Going on a combat dive in 2:00 AM darkness, still somewhat drunk was, I admit, stupid. My Marine Corps Instructor was a nice man and overtly religious, so he didn’t approve of my lifestyle. Like most goody two shoes, he made me feel like I was a no-good-sinner.
What the dogmatic call sinning, I call being one of the boys. Endangering my team is stupid, a real sin, drinking and getting a little too loud with them isn’t. Hell, I was only twenty three.
It’s been said that women need girlfriends and a fair amount of gossip like the desserts need the rain. Men don't need gossip but they do need to hang out and be one of the boys just as much. It starts when you're a kid playing with your friends. One-upmanship games in the sandlot turn to drinking games in your twenties.
How do you become one of the boys?
When I was eight I played a game of chicken with a friend. Chicken in the pool? No. - Chicken chasing like Rocky? No – It was Highway of Death Chicken! We lay in the road (not a side street mind you) to see who could stay the longest. Resting in the middle of the road feels as foreign as moon walking. Totally new and exciting however, dangerous and yet somehow familiar. I've never moon walked but Michael could glide like magic.
How do you become one of the boys?
My good friend Rotten and I got pulled over on a VA highway twenty years ago. We had a few beers but we weren’t drunk (I don’t think). I really don’t enjoy the waiting part – flashing lights blazing the night sky behind you – signaling to all – look at these two dip shits. Daytime pull overs are worse; annoying eye contact of rubber necking passer byes!
A large yet calm and courteous cop said he could smell alcohol looking inside our white sports car. He asked me if I could drive (knowing Rotten was in the wrong seat) shinning his flashlight in my eyes. (I was squirreling beer cans under my seat like loose paper – I remember one being half full spilling all over the floor) Cop “hell you’re no better than he is”.
He asked where we were going and we told him Greenbrier. - Us “we live there officer”. It was the first name on the exit sign we could read and we were going there anyway. Mouth diarrhea, convenient luck, and reflex facilitated our answer.
Cop “I’m going to let you off with a warning” - Us “awesome” (probably more like “thank you sir”) - Cop “I will follow you home” – Us “what the F. do we do now”? (We lived no where near Greenbrier)
I told Rotten (BTW Rotten was given his nickname “Jonny Rotten” by a stripper named Juanita – true story) to just play it cool.
The cop stayed on our ass the whole time as we pulled into some random neighborhood. We actually drove up on someone’s driveway and parked, got out, and went right up to the front door like we owned the joint. I pondered walking in and weather the front door was locked. That line didn’t get crossed, but time slothfully moved, and so did we, to the door. He left and we waited a bit before heading out in general paranoia.
That night turned out to be one of the all time greats and still comes up from time to time. Paranoia turned to invincibility, a power surely bestowed on us by the God of big nuts. The rest of the story is something of legend but for another time.
So what’s my point or do I even have one? I’m not condoning my behavior (not on either highway) but I sure as hell don’t regret it. My life is filled with color and richness because of being one of the boys. It has been part of my destiny. A winding path of initiation has forged my maturity like a sweaty blacksmith beating on steal. From crazy boy games to special ops.
Do seek real manhood along the road, rocky as a boy, you can get there. Be kind to all, protect yourself, be honest and drift toward high character.
I am alive and my best when being one of the boys. It’s part of what made me a Man.
Go live your dream.