Summer Dorm Daze

           My first summer at Langley, albeit actually the least exciting of the three I spent there, proved to provide enough entertainment to commit to the time it takes to jot down an event or two. It was a period of great activity and revelry as we enjoyed the spectacular weather and prepared for upcoming trials; my friends for their first trip to the desert in support of Southern Watch and I for my upcoming arm surgery. I felt I had the much sweeter deal and spared no effort rubbing it in and wonder how I escaped having the other arm ripped from its socket as well.

            In anticipation of going dry for a few months as not even alcohol heavy mouthwash was permitted in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the whole of the dorms erupted into full blown parties each night that didn’t have a duty day following. John was the architect of a great many of these and the rest of us were more than happy to participate. At these events several recurring themes began to emerge that we could count on and left me surprised that no one came up with bingo cards to mark their passage and strike up an illicit gambling operation.

            As I mentioned before, Ford could always be counted on to start a vitriolic rant against Einstein and science in general until I goaded him into a complete breakdown, after which he retreated into a scowling husk of his former self. At some point around mid evening some idiot in the courtyard between the buildings would though either pure drunken sloppiness or attempted acrobatic feat, fall fully into the holly bushes that made up the hedging and have to be pried free bloody and howling. For those not familiar, holly is a very densely thicketed bush with small stiff leaves treacherous with prickers. Whoever thought of planting scores of them where young airmen were most likely to fall into them inebriated was pure genius! On Monday mornings it was not at all uncommon to run across several red eyed stumble bums walking about with heavily abraded arms and faces. It only happened to me once and as with Knaus’s stairs I report with full indignant honesty that I didn’t fall; I was pushed.

            Another unpleasant tradition, never practiced by yours truly, was the end of the night pee off the balcony; occasionally on to someone. I don’t know why this kept happening, but each and every night some different precocious fuck nut would climb up to the third floor, free the shriveled sausage of fury, and let loose golden showers while laughing like a troglodyte as his brilliant comedy. Those of us who recalled that this was all but mandatory moved either to the center of the courtyard and out of range, or into the pool parlor on the first floor. About one of three times some poor fool was caught in the full barrage which would lead to a furious charge up the stairs and attempted murder. Why no one ever fell off or was the victim of a severely deserved beat down I’m not sure as it only could have set a positive example.

            As the summer drove into high gear the weather grew progressively hotter and more humid in the Hampton Roads area. Even the evenings became somewhat unbearable driving the large weekend parties out of the courtyard and into small sub-parties in peoples rooms, which were air conditioned. I thought this was just fine as it was far more comfortable and the chances of being peed on or knocked into a briar patch were significantly reduced. Here we formed the single malt scotch club wherein the Friday after each payday (the first and fifteenth of each month), 4 of us would pool our cash and purchase a new expensive single malt to try. The Balvenie Double Wood earned the highest ranking. Huddled over glasses of expensive spirits and many empty Pabst Blue Ribbon cans, we would scheme and plot.

            One such evening on a particularly hot day, we grew to lament the fact that the base pool was only open during working hours and that a more compassionate military would open it on such hellacious evenings. We then contemplated actually swimming in the bay but discounted the notion for reasons of jellyfish infestation and the rank latrine like smell that emanated from it. It was just a shame that the pool, surrounded by chain link fence topped with razor wire, was just sitting there cool and unused. And unguarded. The idea of course came to us simultaneously and debate began.

            Cons: it was locked, topped with razor wire, it was close to a main road patrolled by base security forces, and if caught, we would be charged with breaking and entering, not to mention the much worse sin of gross safety violation.

            Pros: it was hot, the pool was cool, and we had been drinking scotch for 4 hours.

            We thought it couldn’t hurt to at least wander over there and really check out the situation. It didn’t mean we had to do anything and we decided that we almost assuredly wouldn’t. We changed into our swim trunks, grabbed towels and moseyed on over. We slunk around the back keeping to the shadows and surveyed the main entrance and surrounding fencing. It was chained closed with a heavy duty steel padlock. Knaus probably could have defeated it in seconds but never taught me his craft. We discovered the fatal flaw, or what we though was it, next to the cinderblock changing hut. It was at the rear of the pool, away from the light and the fence ran into it perpendicularly. Performing a complex set of calculations in our heads, we deduced that if John ascended first, he would have the requisite arm length to haul his gargantuan mass to the shingled roof, missing the razor wire by close to an inch if he inhaled sharply at the right moment to pull his paunch out of danger. He could then use his bulk as an anchor to help Bryan and I traverse the distance. It was brilliant and could not fail.

            They say God protects fools and drunks thus we were doubly covered that night. John and Bryan made it up, not quite injury free but not requiring stitches or reattachment of limbs. When my turn came, the luck seemed to fold. It was a few weeks before my surgery and my shoulder simply couldn’t support the climb without threatening to come loose a fourth time. Bitter with rage, I shook the fence and was surprised when it moved slightly. This particular section was only about 3 feet wide between the support pole and where it connected next to a second pole against the hut. Once again John’s ox like properties came into use for the greater good. He grabbed the end and bent it inward enough for me to enter, and simply bent it back into place. There was some regret on their part after enduring many scrapings against the razors, but all in all it worked out for the best.

            Aware of the danger, we kept very quiet, slipping from the shadows to the pool only when no headlights showed on the road about 30 yards distant. The water was cool and far more refreshing than the AC, especially when 5 of us were sitting in a tiny closed door room chain smoking. After a while of simply sitting in the shallow end, we grew slightly bolder and drew straws to send someone back to get our beer and cigs. I drew short and John let me out and back in again. When I got back we spent a good 3 hours silently floating about, drinking beer, talking and smoking in hushed whispers as we flicked our ashes into the crystal waters. At one point someone dropped their beer where it filled with water and sunk to the bottom of the deep end prompting a worrisome effort to retrieve it lest evidence of our presence be detected. When done, we removed all traces that we had ever been there stopping just short of wiping the place down to obscure tell-tale prints.

            For the next few weeks before my operation and their departure for Saudi, the pool break in became a grand weekend tradition. Not trusting the other goons about the dorms, we elected to keep our doings a closely guarded secret. To avoid suspicion we would decline stating off at the same parties and then wander off from them at an agreed upon time and meet up behind the pool. Our fears once we got in, however, reduced to an almost ludicrous level. Where we originally moved like silent ninjas in the night, we graduated to whooping down the slides and even using the diving boards. Several reconnaissance missions had revealed: that in the dark, the interior of the pool area was all but invisible from the road; that security forces always drove with windows closed in hot weather; no foot patrol existed; and there was nothing nearby to generate any other foot traffic but for an occasional lovers stroll. Happy to say, we never got caught although a week or so after our final immersion an article appeared in the base paper about the sanctity of closed areas, especially the pools. We had left our empties on the last day.

            This period also had the distinction of a visit from the esteemed Knaus; the only one of my college friends to bother making their way down to visit. Most of the trip was no stranger to him as back at Comstock he suddenly declared one day that he was driving down to DC and no one was going to stop him. No one even tried and he made good on his threat over a long weekend during which one or two individuals haphazardly wondered where he might be. He returned with plenty of pictures and probably now shows up on a whole host of government threat lists. In any case, he came, and I managed to extend his journey by a few hours.

            In the pre-9/11 days, all one had to do to get access to the base was to call someone on it from the gate, have them call the security gate and give the visitors name, and they were allowed unrestricted access. My phone at the time had a condition by which it didn’t necessarily hang up when hung up and had to be checked each time, which was something I habitually forgot. Poor Knaus actually arrived at the gate on time only to call and find my line busy. As he tried again and again over an hour, the guard became suspicious of the shady character and finally shooed him away all together. In my room and unaware of the situation, I was getting progressively more annoyed with his tardiness as he always refused to bow to the absolute mastery of the clock like I did. Fed up and wanting to go to dinner, I called the gate just to check if he had been by and received tale of the mysterious stranger with stylized hair frantically calling under incredulous gaze. I contemplated fleeing all together, not knowing if his capacity for revenge had grown and wondered if allowing him on a base full of fearsome war machines was really such a good idea. Cautiously, I granted access when he finally called back.

            His visit was a good time and included a visit to the one place none of my other friends would dare venture for fear of the name. To us, the Great Dismal Swamp just sounded too inviting to pass up. It appeared on maps of southern VA covering hundreds of square miles and avoided by most roads and beckoned all the more after being told even locals don’t go there. Finding an entrance was the hard part and was only achieved after purchasing a local map right near the swamp area. The only road in was unmarked, nameless and unpaved. Paul never hesitated as he navigated the white mini-van down it until we found a clearing in which to park.

            It was readily apparent that the place was appropriately named and not some cutesy ironic moniker as we feared. Some overgrown paths existed and we set down one with the swamp waters festering on either side. Just a few feet in a snake of very generous proportions made its presence known and slithered away. We counted ourselves lucky being deep in Cottonmouth territory and easily within striking range. In any case, we went forward anyway and hiked about considerably and amazingly without becoming lost in the treacherous gloomy mosaic of antediluvian foliage. The wildlife, however, was spectacular and Knaus got many good shots without dropping his camera in the fetid waters as he constantly did at Alleghany.

            My Air Force friends took well to Knaus, which was not much of a surprise as those who gathered themselves around me were cut from similar cloth as those from my past. I was delighted when he lectured John and Bryan on the correct use of the door and window controls and finally engaged the child lock and required them to ask permission that their window be cracked to smoke. Later on at one of the night parties, a rumor got started (possibly by me) that Knaus was an undercover agent of the Office of Special Investigation (OSI), the AF version of the FBI and Gestapo combined. I was so pleased with the reaction this got that I started the same rumor about myself not long after.
Requests from underage partiers to by them beer dropped to zero and it was wonderful to see young airmen hurriedly ditch drinks as I approached as they did with Knaus that night. The visit all together was too short and he declined to ever return.

            Soon after Knaus left and my friends boarded planes for the Mid-East, I decided to try my luck with the fairer sex once again and met Susan; a local who shared my passion for bad ‘80’s culture and local bands performing it thus validating our white bread Gen X status as campy kitsch lovers. Our first date was at the cheesily named Duck Inn and we followed up with a long moonlit walk on the beach. She seemed very in to me from the get go, which should have been a warning sign, but I was a slow learner in such areas. Two years my senior, a very recent divorcee, ex-Amway distributor, and had a deep passion for the crushingly depressing warbling of Sarah McLaughlin. My second warning sign should have been that she insisted on playing me several of Ms McLaughlin’s tunes on our very first date and broke down into tears. Twice.

            She had some quirks I found endearing such as her insistence on singing the Everything song ‘Hooch’ even after I demonstrated clearly and unequivocally that it was unquestionably about pussy. She also enjoyed watching the X-Men cartoon and we began a tradition to watching together over the phone. I worked overnights and she days, so each morning when I got home, I’d call and we’d watch together as she got ready for work and I wound down. When she heard hurricane Bonnie was scheduled to batter the Hampton Roads area in a weeks time, she hastily filled her bathtub as an emergency measure. I was forced to shame her into emptying it by asking if things ever got so bad as she was reduced to drinking bathwater, not to mention obvious hygienic issue of not bathing for a week due to an unreliable storm. On the downside, almost everything upset her to an alarming degree. Many long phone calls of consolation were spent as she went on for hours about dropping an ice cream cone and wondering if maybe it happened because she didn’t deserve it and whatnot.

            Not long after my arm operation, my sister came to visit. My arm was still in a sling tucked under my shirt, so Susan promised to drive me under the admonition not to be late. Up to that point we had never yet seen the beginning of a movie; much less the previews due to her inability to sub serve herself to grim father time. That day spelled the beginning of the end. I waited in the dorm parking lot, pacing back and forth as the time ticked on to when Laura’s flight would be touching down. I finally gave up hope and jumped in my car to drive one armed to the airport. I was pretty pissed to begin with, and riding in a Camero with malfunctioning windows and absent AC on a 100 degree day with my arm strapped to my chest was torturous. My concern was that Laura would arrive, not see me, call my mother, and I’d have to hear about it forever. Furious, I got on to the highway to face total gridlock.

            It was the most infuriating ride of my life. Gasping, sweating and swearing at the top of my lungs in the hot unmoving car as the minutes ticked forward for an hour and a half. By the time I reached the airport, my face had taken on a tomato complexion and my clothes were soaked through. My throat was closed and harsh from the constant profane screaming. I ran up the steps and there was Laura at the top, with Susan. She had arrived late as usual, not seen me, and then took a local short cut to the airport and bypassed the traffic. She recognized Laura from pictures and introduced herself, but not after calling my mother several times to complain of my absence. I returned to my room later to a machine full of angry messages and meaningless threats. Not long after Susan and I became ‘just friends’ at my suggestion.

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6 Responses

  1. Holly bushes! That was what Larry sell into. A great military tradition carries on.

    You cannot be pushed when you are behind someone, such as was the case on Paul’s stairs.

    Another example of a military tradition, as was true in Larry’s time re peeing down the German chimney.

    How did you idiots clean up the ashes you flicked int he water?

    Leaving your beers on the last day. You always had a need to leave something behind, like the body outline we left in Goodyear when we left, along with a few remaining old (full) beer cans.

    I never had a current address for you in the military. By the time I got a new one you had moved on. That being said, I was not going to spend a weekend on a military base. To that point our group’s experience with visiting a military base was all bad (Dan).

    Paul’s van. Many a frigid morning one semester, when we both clung to Engineer dreams, he would drive me over to the Amherst campus for our 9am Thermodynamics class. I had to get up one the dot, and 30 minutes early lest he decide to leave without me. His irregular schedule kept me on my toes. You would think being on another campus and the tremendous cold would have us skip many classes, but to the contrary it spurred Paul on, as if perfect attendance during the winter was some golden fleece. That van was bare inside, and the thin metal amplified the chill air. It was only as we pulled into a parking space that it was finally warm.

    He declined to ever return huh? Sounds like a detail or two was left out. Perhaps, perchance was Paul there for the poo explosion in John’s room? Oh, did I get the name wrong? Pardon me sir, but I don’t fucking know these people.

    How did you meet this civilian while in the military? Did you have access to local papers? You should have ran when she said Amway.

    Crying over dropped ice cream! Now you are just stealing directly from Seinfeld! And she did deserve it!

    Was it your mom that left the angry messages? Nice of your sister to rat you out with no grace period. Given my history with you though I’m sure you had it coming.

  2. Bah! Semantics. Shoved then or shrugged off. Same effect!

    The ashes flicked in the water just kind of dispersed but probably made the water taste like an ashtray.

    I must always leave things behind and have gotten even better at it. Last summer I installed a sizablte time capsul about 6 feet underground in my back yard – fully water proof, stress proof, and covered in rebar reinforced concrete to discourage the average asshole with a shovel and too much time on his hands like me.

    Spare me your excuses! I never once moved in the time it took someone to come down. And besides, I only lived on the base for 1 year and spent the next 2 in apartments. The stories should get more interesting in that phase as well.

    You should count yourself lucky getting free van rides. If you remember, I generally walked from Comstock to the north campus; both ways in all kinds of snow!

    You got the name right so spare me your facisious pardons! Knuas is mysterious and never explained why he didn’t return. The poop incident happened about a week or so before he came, so it was still the talk of the town though.

    Contrary to popular belief, we were allowed off base any time not working; I wasn’t in prison. I did indeed have access to local papers. Actually, I was impressed that she broke free of the Amway cult, even though her ex divorced her over it choosing the association with shoddy hard to sell goods over her. Then again, it may have just been a convenient reason.

    I probably got the example from Seinfeld to be honest. I remember when I saw that episode my first thought was “Susan!” Truly though, it didn’t take much. She cried at any sappy commercial and even even expressed sadness during ‘Something About Mary’.

    Yes, it was my mom who left the angry messages and it was just like Laura to rat me out!

  3. What was in your time capsule?

    Oh yeah! I walked from Comstock to North Campus and back every day for years. It was uphill and blizzard conditions both ways, every day, even weekends!

  4. In my time capsule? Things to make you ask questions! Wait, I’m not Dave. Basically all manner of items from the early part of this century including: some magazines, comic books, a Walkman, video tapes, various media on CDs, golf balls, two bottles of wine, cans of Genny Creame Ale and Pabst Blue Ribbon, a can of pork brains in milk gravey, some articles of clothing, porn, an old cell phone, a printed copy of this blog as it existed last July, a note from me to the future, and some other various trinkets I can’t remember at the moment.

    Each item was individually vacu-sealed in it’s own bag. The bags were divided into dry goods and potential leaker wet good piles and each pile was carefully placed in giant tupperware containers wrapped in rags and such. Each container was epoxied closed and then sealed with silicon caulk, then each places in one of those giant storage zip lock bags. Both containers were then placed in a large box lined with styrofoam, which was sealed, covered over every inch with quality duct tape and then plastic.

    The time capsul container was then brought out and lowered into a 6′ deep pit I dug in the back yard near the property line (digging it caused many stares from neighbors but not many questions), that I had poured concrete into . Once in, I drove in rebar all around the box, then poured concrete over the whole think – about 300 lbs worth. I then drove criss-crossing metal spikes all about at angles facing out from the conrete box. I buried it up to the 2 foot mark in alternating layers of conrete rubble and clay, topped this with a steel sheet, then added a second layer of poured concrete, another layer of clay, then a layer of brick, and finally top soil and sod. There is no real evidence it’s even there.

    My thought was to make it so friggin difficult to get to in order to discourage the average backyard schmuck with a shovel and too much time on his hands like myself in hopes it will last under there for at least 100 years until found. The whole project took many hours last summer to the consternation of my wife, bewilderment of my friends and family, and no doubt caused much whispering amongst my neighbors, especially when I would emerge, covered in mud and clay, from a pit near the fence line when my neighbor was having a garden party.

    None of you here should be surprised in the least over any of this.

  5. I am not surprised. This incident holds the same amount of detail and truth as your other stories. I’m sure there is something you forgot to put in the time capsule. Oh well, you are shit out of luck.

  6. I forgot nothing! In any case I plan to bury one every place I live from now on, each more difficult to access than the last. In addition, this account is surprisingly accurate in every detail – none of it was particularly difficult. I mixed the concrete in by wheelbarrow, the steel was from the old stone grill I knocked apart in the corner of the yard, from whence I also got the bricks and assorted concrete rubble. In digging the pit I learned what a bitch it is when you hit a rock, so made sure to have plenty in there. No one is getting that out without a back hoe.

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