Thursday, September 28, 2017

Naval Academy Reunion

Has it really been 30 years?

The calendar says so. Now it's time for the USNA Class of 1987 to reassemble.

Pretty view on the flight from Oregon. And lots of rain below, finally washing away 3 months of forest fires.

While waiting in Denver, I imagine I'll see someone I know from school. Sure enough, there's Joe and Dan, both pilots.

First on the agenda: a quick tour of the old stomping grounds...

Bill the Goat, sans Brasso...

Bancroft Hall, home to 4500 midshipmen, 5 miles of corridors....and lots of barber chairs
On the docks, a nice sculpture of Alex Haley, whose ancestor landed on this very location.

Food? Yes, please. Chick and Ruth's, a USNA tradition.

Pickles and mustard.

And they sell beer now!

Great picture on the wall there...

Wednesday night volunteer job: helping assemble 500 swag bags with various stuff. Joe, a plebe year company mate, looks at me and starts laughing. What's up, Joe?

He said, "I just pictured you in white works."  34 years later.
Plebe summer uniform
Yes, I still have the dixie cup.

Back to the swag bag party: almost 1200 total attendees...

Thursday morning: with my two back surgeries, I'm not going anywhere near the golf outing. But Ronnie is...

Instead, I take a little self-guided tour. Nice view from the seawall...the Chesapeake Bay.


After my first steps on the rocks in 30 years...

Did I mention the rocks? We'll come back to them later....

Tecumseh Court and Bancroft Hall


This mural in Memorial Hall kept me going for many a night.

Da boys...KD, Hey Duane, and me

Were we ever this skinny? 

I absolutely destroyed the Mid survivors. The umbrella was part of our reunion swag. 

Ken, Eric and I bought the same rings without consultation 31 years ago. Eric's is bigger (though we always suspected that).

Duane said his own now serves as a pinkie ring. Possibly the best line of the whole weekend!

Evening reception at the Stadium...

Not sure what this big guy did since graduation...rumor has it he played some basketball.

Are those safety glasses, Eric?

Back at the house: our final arrival, Adam '97 found the electronic door lock not working. We're locked out. Or are we? Adam channels his inner 'Message to Garcia,' picks the back door lock, and all is right with the world again.

Friday morning breakfast at Chick and Ruth's, with Ron, the most decorated runner in Navy history, and one who has no filter or 'off' switch. Preamble: last night, we invited Tish to hang out at our frat house, and she brought some cash to offset the booze costs. So this...

     Ronnie J (at breakfast): "She left money because I was so good."
     Eric: "Ron, she wants change."

I think I high-fived Eric.

Then I notice Bob, who I haven't seen since graduation. Great guy! I really enjoyed meeting his wife, Lisa, who I promised incriminating photos from the 1980s.

Pretty town.

Memorial service for fallen classmates at the Chapel

Bumper and Company Lightweight Football MVP Sean

Stopped by Uncle Hymie's house...

Wandered below decks to reminisce...

'87 Naval Architects

The big boy....380' towing tank. Eric and I fondly reminisce about the day someone skipped a decimal place and and soaked us with a rogue wave. Soggy uniforms on the way back for lunch!

Kinda neat to get an engineering degree based on playing with model toys

Classmate Howard stated a few months ago that we could view/print our applications package from library microfiche, so Chips and I ran up to the third floor and found our files. My amazement at seeing 35 year old documents was interrupted by Eric laughing his fool head off.

Background: Prior to USNA, Eric spent a slack year at the University of Idaho, rather enjoying himself. A little too much, it seemed.

He showed me why he was hooting...his little love note from the Dean of Admissions, dated 6 July 1983.

"The Admissions Board did not withdraw your offer of appointment, but it was a close call. You will not remain here long if you can't produce better results than you've shown in the past few months."

Welcome to the Navy, Midn 4/c Hoy!

In my own file, I see handwriting from my high school years. well as reading my three medical rejections (excessive refractive correction), all the pleading letters I wrote (as well as the dozens of phone calls not documented), and the final surrender note from the Admissions Board in which they granted a medical waiver in exchange for me leaving them alone. Mission accomplished.

I run into Mike, a plebe company classmate who was recruited to play football here by none other than Steve Belichick, a longtime Navy assistant coach whose son Bill seems to have met with a bit of success. Steve's library is intact in Ricketts Hall...and Mike still has the signed recruitment letter.

Friday night reception:

Tracy  ("Tres C")
I took great sadistic pleasure in sneaking up behind guys I haven't seen since graduation, whispering "Don't turn around" before shoving an incriminating photo from the mid-1980s in their faces.

Then there's PJ....

One of my very best friends; this guy saved the Ring Dance for me when I ran away screaming from my unstable girlfriend two days before the big day. Pat convinced one of his high school friends to have pity on me, and we had a great time at the bash.

PJ, my bucket list now includes a home game at Clemson....

Speaking of which...Admiral John's wife Mary posted awhile back that they owned eight Ring Dance glasses for some reason, so I humbly asked for two if they wanted to downsize. Then I forgot about it. Then I walk into the reception, and Mary (who I hadn't met before) hands me these...

Thrilled. Grateful. Big smiles.

Speaking of big smiles...
Daughter Zoe's 9th grade class picture somehow slipped in here: my blog, my rules!
And a world class dab...

Back to PJ...we destroyed 2/c summer in 1985, most memorably at Rosie O'Grady's in Pensacola.

The Hurricane. We should have known better when it came with tygon tubing instead of straws.

I thought it would take us a hour. Nope; 10 minutes.

Then we sang Navy Blue and Gold at the top of our lungs. The DJ dubbed us 'the Moron Tabernacle Choir.'

The things you remember...

Miscreants, identify thyselves. I see a Paul Huxhold, Greg Johnston, Conrad Caldwell, John Jenkins, John Wilkens, and of course the perpetual ringleader Mr Sims leading the charge (and corrupting us all). For the couple of guys I can't quite identify, my apologies.

Saturday morning group run, organized by Navy Seal and Senate Candidate Gabe.

Also in attendance: Classmate Sunita, who spent approximately 9745 days in space. In the spring of 2007, when I had just moved to Oregon, the shuttle and space station were on trajectory to fly overhead for a long viewing opportunity. The shuttle had undocked the previous day, so I got to see both craft with my very own classmate up there. Big lump in my throat.

Been a long time since I've done an outer perimeter!

Navy-Cinncinati football game and tailgater....

Classmate Margaret, who I didn't know in school, is the architect of a very memorable exchange....a couple weeks ago, someone asked online about the recommended female attire for the cocktail party. Maggie suggested glitter...

I said, 'only for the guys.'

At the tailgater, she gives me this...

That's a shot glass with a glitter sailboat.

Are you kidding me? So awesome.

I love my classmates.

And I love me some Navy football...

My roommate Rob...

For all you civilians out there: one of many Naval Academy traditions is for the plebes to do push-ups every time the team scores. But it's not 7 every time, it's a cumulative thing. And Navy scored 42 points on Saturday....Tim and I took a leadership role and got after it with a good showing, though the final set was 21 each, alternating. We ended up with 87 + 10 on the afternoon.

Two days later, I am very happily sore.

Sunday morning; since our rental is literally 30 yards from downtown, I find an early morning coffee shop and then sit on the docks at 0600. So peaceful, with the sky beginning to break, just me and my aforementioned buddy Alex.  I began to wonder why I stayed away for 30 years, because I finally feel like I belong. Finally.

It's a good feeling.

The Yard opens for visitors at sunrise,  so I jog a slow final perimeter, stopping at the Hospital Point Columbarium to salute Walt and Betty, my roomie Rob's folks who eternally look over Worden Field. Rob was the best roommate I ever had, along with Mike and Brian and Sean and Paul.

Paul is from Iowa, and I'm a Jersey boy. Back in school, every time I'd refer to our battleships as 'the New Jersey class,' he'd beat my ass.

Got a lot of ass beatings that year.

At Ho Point, I also saw Jason Skubi. All he ever wanted to do was fly and marry Kelly: he did both. RIP, Jason.

Coming around Dewey Basin, I remember 1st Regimental Staff marching off the dock in perfect formation after our last formal parade: Tom, myself, Chris C, Chris N, Rob....but no Big Dave, because he had press obligations all year, poor guy.

I remember Dave running late from a PR thing before an earlier parade that year. The five of us helped slap his uniform onto him, then we started out the door....until I realized my sword was dragging the ground and his sword looked like a paring knife. Uh, Dave, I think we switched!

Right before graduation, I had the presence of mind to buy this picture of that studly 1st Regimental Staff, and even had everyone sign it!

Then I run the seawall because,

Bonus: I stayed upright. A midshipman saw me as I finished and we slapped a vicious five. I still got it...

Back at the house, cooling down from the run, I find incontrovertible evidence that Eric was out here last night...

The only car that makes sense in crowded Annapolis...most of us Uber'd around.

Sunday breakfast...just like the old days, enjoying a cappucino in King Hall.

Wait, WHAT????

Oh yes: things have changed a bit. What hasn't changed is 360 tables, 12 mids per, all eating within 10 minutes of each other. That's 4500 hungry mouths to feed three times a day: your tax dollars buy an awful lot of food for the Brigade. 20 years ago, when volunteering for a Toastmasters chapter at Trenton State Prison, I met an inmate from Baltimore who actually worked in King Hall during our tenure. He was amazed at the amount of food we could put away....I wasn't.

Bob and Lisa taking charge of this post and all government property in view. 

Still have this little pre-renovation goodie, courtesy of my mom. 


Never thought of this, but I now see a more appropriate place for that dixie cup than on my bookshelf. 

Brown Field House....because track. I need no other reason.

Lejeune Hall, the swimming complex. I hear a tour guide talking about the senior swim test (the 40 year swim), in which mids in full khakis swim for 40 minutes and are required to cover a certain distance without touching the sides. The guide says, "I don't know what the criteria is."   Of course, I blurt out, "14 laps is a B," because that's what I did in 1987.

And the Tower jump, 10 meters. Mandatory for all.

Last Chapel visit: Classmate and Head Chaplain Rob belongs there, as his baritone voice fills the building.

Ronnie J and I....this man ran that monstrous 3rd in the 1996 Olympic Trials 5000m. "The best day of my life," he said. No doubt! Given that I officiated at the Olympic Trials last year, we had lots to talk about.

Final stop out of town: Oh Shit Hill. Mids driving back from leave will crest this hill, see the Yard, and involuntarily mutter, "Oh Shit."

Nearing the airport, Eric notices the temperature. Of course it is...

A nice refreshment in the airport lounge, courtesy of Priority Pass.

Airborne, and one last look down the Severn River.

To paraphrase Pat Conroy, 'I wear the Ring.'

Actually, that's a direct quote
Lots of great memories in this little wristband. 

One more look...

Back at the ranch, 3000 miles away, late Sunday night.

Incredible experience. Reconnected with some old friends, made some new ones, and eased up on myself, all at the same time.

Peace and love, USNA Class of 1987.