Here's Johnny -Dear Diary .
I hope the 4th of July found Dear Readers in good health and near a set of earplugs for them, their loved ones and their pets. This is being written two days before our nation's 241st anniversary of our Declaration of Independence - and two days after a D-Dimer test suggested there might be a life-or-at-least-limb threatening blood clot in my right leg. At times like that, one begins sorting through what folks used to call "personal effects," which turned out to be sorta like watching my life flash before my eyes and realizing, "Hey, lots of this was really boring." (Turns out I'll probably live, by the way, though I'm not overly confident. Okay, on with the story.) However, I did find one item of interest to me and, God willing, Dear Readers: A diary of sorts I began in boot camp at Recruit Training Center, Great Lakes, Ill. (Known by jokers like me as "Great Mistakes.") Each recruit was given a plain white notebook with a sailor holding a rifle above his head on the cover. Inside the front cover was our chain of command, from president of the U.S. all the way down to company commander, with a space for the name of each link. The chain of command of this particular notebook, however, was left blank - I had more important things to do, like whining about boot camp and making a few adult observations here or there. My first entry was written on a Sunday, 11 days after I signed my life away for at least four years (Ronald Reagan would have been the top entry in the chain of command then, had I bothered to fill it out). Aug. 25 (a flashback within a flashback): "We arrived at boot camp Monday night, Aug. 12. We were kept up all night doing paperwork and urine tests. Consequently, we only got an hour-and-a-half of sleep at the most. We were awakened very early the next morning by a trashcan thrown down the barracks aisle - rather uncalled for, I thought. "When we walked out into the rain at 5 a.m., I wondered if the weather would be symbolic of our stay here at Great Mistakes. . "We've got guys from all over the country here - from Boston who can't say their Rs, guys from Joisey, Kansas City, L.A., etc. . "Nearly everyone had trouble (going number 2) for nine or 10 days . which might have something to do with only getting five minutes to eat. What table manners I had are gone. We eat like starving wolves, pausing only to toss down a glass of industrial strength punch (it also cleans the floors, tiles and bathtub). ." Aug. 27: ". Starting to get more and more into routine. Days are going by faster and faster. Only 45-½ days until graduation." Aug. 30: "Had an interesting confrontation late Wednesday night. I awoke to what I thought were the sounds of two recruits talking near my rack (Navy-speak for bed). Offended, I told them to be quiet, damnit. Was rather surprised when a loud voice screamed, 'Whoever told me to shut up can get their (Navy term for rear-end) out here and make me shut up!'" "Turned out it was Chief Petty Officer Jones from our sister company. I freaked. Immediately woke up fully and explained to him that I thought it was two recruits talking. He must have understood or been too surprised to say anything else, because he walked out a minute later ." Aug. 30: "Heard another funny story about me . The watch, a kid named Anderson, said at least three times I sat upright in my bed and said, 'Quit dropping your piece (Navy-speak for weapon), dumb-(Navy-speak for word I can't write in this paper)! Of course, I didn't remember it today." "A week ago, a watch told me that I got out of bed with a bizarre look on my face, used the head (Navy-speak for bathroom), and on the way back to my bunk, threw him a salute. He said it scared the (Navy-speak for "heck") out of him." Aug. 31: "Ricky (Navy-speak for recruit) Sunday! The day all us Ricks yearn for all week. From 0800 (Navy-speak for 8 a.m.) to 1300 (you get the drift), we get a certain amount of freedom. Our company gets to go to Drill Hall 1400, the park, or church. I like the park - you can lay back and think about how much fun you had during the week. (Sarcasm intended.) "I seem to be falling into a light depression. My energy and interest levels are low." Sept. 1 (Memorial Day): Another Ricky Sunday. Sat in this ." And that's how it ends, Dear Readers. Or rather, how the attempted journal ends. My Navy journey ended six years and four months after it began, with five-plus years of work in radio, television and newspaper work, an honorable discharge, and six ribbons and three medals, some of which I may have actually deserved. What's it all mean, Alfie? I dunno. I do know while I had a better set of knees then, my writing's improved, and for the most part, I had a darn good time doing my very small part to keep America the home of the brave and the land of the free. I didn't need a journal to figure that out.