The End of an Era

All aboard the party bus, next stop Freedomville.
All aboard the party bus, next stop Freedomville.

And the start of a new one — one that will suck really, really hard. As of tomorrow, I’ll be (finally) starting prototype after being on various stages of hold at three different commands since May 25th. It’s been amazing to have done pretty much nothing for so long, but also it sucks because I have literally forgot almost everything I knew… and now I have to stuff it all back in there. Not fun! For the sake of keeping things simple, I’m just telling everyone that I’ll basically disappear for six to nine months, depending on how long I’m actually stuck in the pipeline (there are numerous delays).

It’s actually making me a little sick thinking of it. I’ve been able to spend so much time with Carissa that this is… strange, to say the least. It’s going to be such a switch from getting to see her all the time to pretty much only at night, and only so I can pass out and go to bed. On top of her working until pretty late, I’m not sure when we’re supposed to get a chance to see each other. Oh well, part of the Navy — and much less sucky than a deployment where I won’t even come home at night. But, that’s still down the road.

So, to make the best of it, we went to the 30th Annual Lowcountry Oyster Festival, put on by the Charleston Restaurant Association. I’ve always done the restaurant week things in the past and thought they were cool, and we both love oysters and other seafoods. It’s been featured on billboards and posters, and it’s all over the radio. I’ve been pumped up about this event for over a month.

The event is at the Boone Hall Plantation, which is about a 35 minute drive from our place in Summerville and it opened today (on a Sunday, strangely) at 10:30 AM. We left the house at about 11 AM and about 5 miles away from the event is where we ran into the most ridiculous problems. The parking situation was the single most infuriating thing I’ve ever dealt with and will largely be the reason I won’t ever be back. We waited on the main road for over an hour and half and then we turned into a winding, dusty dirt road that took another 45 minutes of standstill traffic to reach the parking lot, which took about 15 minutes to park in.

It is this packed and more, and completely disorganized.
It is this packed and more, and completely disorganized.

From there, we walk about 5 minutes to the entrance, waited another 10 minutes, and get through (tickets at 15 dollars at the door). After that, you have to wait in a line for another 15 minutes to buy tickets to buy the oysters and alcohol. The tickets are 2 dollars each, and each bucket of oysters is 10 dollars. (Amazingly, wine and beer were 3 tickets each, meaning 6 dollars for less than a solo cup of beer. Cool.) And, if you’re going to eat oysters, you need to wait in line for 10 minutes to get the knife tool (4 dollars) to open them (and gloves [2 dollars each glove] if you don’t want your hands to get all cut up like ours did). So we get all the tickets and the tools finally, and we wander around to where the oyster bucket line is. This time, everyone was packed together like cattle with no real line, and fighting my way to the front took another 35 minutes. We got 3 buckets of oysters, with about 1 1/2 dozen in each bucket (it comes with crackers, hot sauce, and cocktail sauce though horseradish was definitely missing).

After that, if you want to use the provided tables, you have to wait until they open up or each sit in the grass. We got lucky and jumped in a spot fast. We probably spent 40 minutes having fun and eating oysters (damn you will get messy). We had a good time and ate a lot of these sea loogies, which were really hot and delicious. So, we finish and try to get cleaned up, but the sanitizing stations are empty already (bring wet wipes with you, trust me!). We try to go to the bathroom, but there were obviously not enough units for everyone and the wait appeared to be a good 20 minutes or more, so we just held it in. Fun.

There was some live music, but nothing that caught our attention. Most people were just out there getting slammed drunk and eating fried foods from the other vendors (who gets fried chicken at an oyster festival?). The size of the venue is almost a little small for all the people, despite being a massive plot of land available for use. Every inch of space was taken up by people’s stuff, so finding your way around wasn’t too pleasant. If there were more things to do than the music, eat oysters, and get drunk, we didn’t see it. We wandered around a little, but there wasn’t a map of the event or anything, so we just left after we got somewhat full. Our big loop into the plantation put us right next to one of the entrances, so I thought we’d have an easy out. Wrong, of course. They closed it off and had us drive through the front of the event, near the ticket gates. Of course, everyone was walking everywhere, so we had to wait on all the people and then drive through another winding dirt road in bumper to bumper traffic, taking around 45 minutes. When we got to the highway, we were so relieved to finally leave.

You can eat oysters at a sit down place all over town, for less than the price you'll get them for at the festival. Try Coconut Joe's and have a walk on the beach while you're there.
You can eat oysters at a sit down place all over town, for less than the price you’ll get them for at the festival. Try Coconut Joe’s and have a walk on the beach while you’re there.

So, if you total everything up, we spent 60 dollars, 30 on food, and 30 to enter (and more, counting the gas). We spent more than 5 hours total trying to get to the event and actually being there, and of that, we spent a total of 40 minutes actually eating the stupid oysters. I am completely amazed that people were actually having a good time here. I went to the fair, which was packed and it took us maybe 30 minutes to get in the gate, and maybe 10 to leave. I wasted my entire last day of freedom trying to get out of the house and do something fun, but I can’t figure out why I just didn’t lay in bed. If I was a smart man, I could have gone to a really nice seafood place and had more food for less money and be way more happy. I’m not sure if this is what South Carolina calls a good time, but it really sucks.

What should have been a really fun day turned out to be a huge waste. Today is the day that Carissa and I spent in the car together hanging out. If we wanted to do that, we would have done it in our driveway. They’ve been putting this thing on for 30 years and they haven’t figured out the logistics it takes to do this yet? Ridiculous.

The reason I wrote so much detail about the event is because I Googled it myself and could only find a couple of facts, such that it existed and that there is a lot of oysters and live music. So hopefully someone else Googles this and decides to never come here and do this. You can get oysters at tons of seafood places around town, and your day won’t suck. Avoid it at all cost.


This is a staged reenactment, but it happened pretty much just like this. How romantic!

Well, it’s been a pretty long time since I updated this, largely because I’ve been having a great time spending my days with Carissa. On September 21, I took her to Pearlz and proposed. It was simple, but pretty romantic. I was so nervous that I was pounding beers and I even ate two dinners. Yep, might as well go big! One of the other guests there even picked up our tab, which was pretty nice. Overall, it was a good day.

Since then, Carissa is living at our new house in Ladson, SC. It’s been really enjoyable, especially now that I’ve got all my furniture from Texas and we’re not sleeping (or living) on air mattresses as the only furniture in the house. Besides Carissa, I’m living with Lim, Ngo, and Ryals. We’re a pretty good mixture of people for one house (though no one puts the clean dishes away except us).

Next door to us our other Navy buddies, Reff, his wife, Berg, Haynes, and now a guy called Hollander and his girl have moved in — making our house a central hub for people to come over and hang out. Not a bad set up at all.

This is our 2,600 sq. ft. house. Not bad! We’ve finally made it!

So, back in South Carolina, I’m on prefill (another hold division) waiting to class up for Prototype where I will pretend operate a nuclear plant. It’s scary to think I may be on hold for a couple of months longer — I already forgot basically every single thing I’ve learned. I crammed it all before, so it didn’t stick with me long term. The good news is that I officially have what I consider to be the easiest job in the Navy: I drive the 44 passenger bus in a big circle from a parking lot to Prototype from 4 AM to 7 AM. This has given me so much free time with Carissa, which is great. She’s trying to get a job so that’s probably about to change. I guess I’ll just use the free time to sleep or use Reddit. Not sure.

It’s weird to think of me as a “grown up”. The Navy itself treats most of its lower ranking Sailors as children, and we tend to live up to this hype for the most part. But, I’m finally settling down and thinking about my future. I have a career, a house, and a beautiful girl. I guess everything does work out. We’re waiting until around June for the actual marriage, but I don’t want anything too big. I’d rather spend it on a really, really awesome honeymoon. We’ll see how that works out!

Otherwise it’s been nice being back in Charleston. The city isn’t all bad, especially up in the Summerville area where we’re close to. Right now my life is actually more laid back than in Kings Bay — but that’s just for a couple more months!

Lords of Discipline

A view of the Citadel

It’s been a little while since I’ve updated. Kings Bay has been a great experience, and I’m learning a lot about the town. Work has been laid back from the start and I’ve been enjoying it, even when I have to stand some stupid watch. Last Saturday I got called up right as I was going to bed. I laid my head down on the pillow and as soon as I closed my eyes, I got a call from the quarter deck asking where I was and why I was late for watch. Someone had apparently penciled my name into the watch bill and never bothered to, you know, tell me about it. I explained it to the Petty Officer of the Watch and he says, “Oh, well, in that case… Surprise!” So, I stood that. Tonight I have the 1:30 AM watch in an empty building. Eh, oh well. (As a side note, I wanted to update this to mention that I got a call at 11:30 PM asking where the the guy before me was — and the guy they wanted had broken his leg, and it’s been broken for a month — so I ended up standing watch for a ridiculous amount of time. Love this stuff!)

So, I’ve been doing some reading in my down time and it’s really turned out to the be the best book I’ve read in years. I’ve read a few books since I’ve been in the Navy, but this is far the best. I’ve been name dropping it to everyone I see, but I’m not sure anyone will share in the zeal that I’ve accumulated. But, I’ll rub it in your face once more and talk about how it relates to me. It’s called “The Lords of Discipline” and it’s by Pat Conroy. It’s hard to describe in one sentence because it does so many things. The book is about Charleston in the 1960s, the Citadel (a military university in the city), how the city’s social politics work. But, at heart, it’s about becoming a man (or growing up, I suppose), fighting the system, and how it changes you. Definitely something that anyone who has lived in Charleston should check out, and it applies to everyone who has been in the military — but it also just appeals to anyone’s memories about growing up too. Like I said, hard to characterize it fully until you’ve read it for yourself.

It does a good job of showing Charleston in a different light. As a Nuke, I was stationed in Goose Creek, a ways up north into a swampy, stinky area (largely due to the nearby sewage processing plant). I’d have to drive into the city to see the city, and what I usually saw was a bunch of tourist traps by day and a bunch of expensive bars with stuck up girls by night. I’ve ran into some true Charlestonians before and they really do have an attitude that they are God’s only gift to this Earth, and especially much more sophisticated and cultured than the Navy folk stationed there. I remember talking to a girl when I was first going downtown and she told me she didn’t like to associate with us because we’re dumb little kids who could not make it in college. I explained to her that I had a degree and that I was older, but I think my words were lost on her. People just have their ways set about them. And, the author explains it far better than I could.

Observers have described Charlestonians as vainglorious, obstinate, mercurial, verbose, xenophobic, and congenitally gracious. Most of all, they elude facile description, but they do possess a municipal character that has a lot to do with two centuries of scriptural belief that they are simply superior to other people of the earth. If you do not subscribe to this theory or are even offended by it, well, it simply means that you are from “away”, that you are obviously not a Charlestonian.

Go out and buy this book right now.

The book describes some of this, though it romanticizes it to the point where I was I could experience Charleston the way that the characters did — the sights, sounds, and even smells of the city. Somehow he even makes the world’s worst humidity into something beautiful (and I’m thankful he mentioned the hordes of mosquitoes and biting gnats). Or perhaps the author is just nostalgic and remembers it in a fond light. I similarly think of San Antonio and the King William District, where there was such an old culture of money surrounded by a sprawling city. That city will always have a place in my heart, and I would give anything to live in it again. Then again, maybe I am just craving cheap Mexican food, dollar wells at Crabby Jacks with Christian, frat parties at Sam’s house, and drunken club adventures with Faber. Those memories are more dear to me because I spent four hard years at Trinity, some of the best years of my life with some of the best people.

I imagine everyone has this kind of nostalgia about the moments when they transition from being a kid fresh out of their hometown and thrust into a new environment. The longer I stayed, the more I grew as a person and moved on. Then I ended up in the Navy, ready to be a grown up, and then ultimately treated much like a kid again. I’m eager to “grow up” in the Navy and get to the point I want to be. Even as stupid as the Navy can be, I’m learning to love it very fast. I might not have memories tied to a specific city, but I have them tied to my buddies and the experiences we have.

Grad Hold

Here’s 1201-8 in our whites looking like BAMFs.

Right now, I’m in a magical place called Grad Hold, which is basically a period where I wait for a spot for Prototype to open up where I do 6-9 months of final nuclear training before I hit the fleet. Due to complications with the training reactors, there’s a pretty huge delay time, up to 6 or 7 months for machinist’s mates like myself. This is actually awesome because it gives us time to do pretty much nothing, and it’s amazing. Most of the time we get out early and we can do whatever, which is nice. Finally I’ve had more time for the gym!

So, anyway, right after graduation on the 25th, my family came up and we spent the long Memorial Day weekend on the beach at Isle of Palms, and pretty much did every touristy thing possible. I made sure to get my fill of everything free that I could! It’s nice not having to pay for all the expensive meals that I love to eat. They liked seeing the ocean and seeing Charleston, and the weather, for once, was nice. They were completely skeptical of all the places I took them until they actually got there; I’ve been doing my best to scope out Charleston and the good places to eat for about a year now — Pearlz downtown has the best tuna burger, Sesame Burger is the best place I’ve ever eaten in my life (they have a peanut butter and a banana burger!), and Huck’s Low Country on Isle of Palms is the best fried oysters on this planet, period.

Me and Dad in downtown Charleston seeing the sights

I can tell they were proud of me graduating from this school, and I myself am more proud than the four years I spent in college — mainly just because it was such an awful bitch to get through. I didn’t take leave since they came up here, but I’m certainly missing Texas and that feeling of being home though; nothing will ever replace it in my heart. And I miss the barbeque! What is up with this pulled pork mess they love so much in this part of the country?

After that, Carissa came up and I was able to show her some more of Charleston. We did one of those romantic carriage tour things (aw) and drank heavily at one of my favorite pubs, Molly Darcys. Then, that weekend, me, Burns, Wager, Kass, Werner, Wagner, Barker, and other people I’m probably forgetting headed to Myrtle Beach. I had always wanted to go, but never made it, so I’m glad I finally did. We had a big suite overlooking the ocean and did a fair bit of partying. We did a casino cruise boat tour which I wasn’t too excited about after my last big winnings, but I ended up being a craps mastermind and winning a fair bit — enough to pay for the whole trip and a little more. On top of that, we had just got our 15 grand sign on bonuses (of which we see about 4 grand up front after taxes and being split over our contract). So, all in all, a good time.

Moving sand in the rain. Much like a Navy SEAL, only the exact opposite.

Other than that, I’ve been chilling. Did a BBQ at McNaughton’s house and had homemade chicken fried steak at Buetow’s house (courtesy of his lovely wife). Good to have a little homemade food mixed into the crap I’ve otherwise been eating. For the most part, we just sweep up and clean the base for a couple hours, but we were lectured about the importance of our job (actually the Senior Chief compared it to storming the beaches of Normandy, but that’s really a poor comparison…). The result is that we’ve been doing massive amounts of time sink activities, such as moving sand from one wet pit to another wet pit. Oh well, at least it’s something.

But, all this is fine because on Wednesday we’ve been given orders to go to TAD (temporary assigned duty, I assume?) to King’s Bay, Georgia, about 4 hours south of here. It’s awesome because it’s not here and I won’t be surrounded by us for a while. As well, it’s going to pay 60 extra dollars a day. Awesome. The plan is to work there for 4 months, but now we’ve been told 2 months. Who knows. I like to think that until something is happening to me, I won’t believe anything at all. We’ll see where it goes!


Petty Officer'ed Up

Well, this has been an interesting Thanksgiving. Yesterday, when I was getting my haircut after being yelled out by annoying third class for my hair touching my ears, the barber lady, Stephanie, invited me to her family’s Thanksgiving. It seemed a little strange, but there was no way I’d turn down a homecooked meal. My fears were put to rest as soon as I met her family — an eclectic mixture of people that were pretty awesome to hang out with. The food was fantastic and I actually enjoyed myself the whole time. Good stuff. It’s not home, and it’s not my family, but it was way better than eating frozen turkey at the galley.

Otherwise, things have been pretty good. Kicking it for the most part. I haven’t updated in large part because I’ve put in 140 hours to Skyrim, a super nerdy video game that consumed my soul since it’s release. But I burned myself out so it’s back to trying to get in shape again. The Navy is great for making you not want to work out.

Leave was good. I pretty much did nothing all day every day and it was fantastic. It was 10 days of me ignoring the world, sleeping in, and eating delicious food. (Yes, Kara, I remembered to mention you!) I have leave upcoming two weeks into Power School, meaning I’ll probably do the same, though if I am motivated enough, I’ll tour around Texas and see Emily, Mella, and a few others.

How can I be healthy when I have places that make a sandwich that looks like this?

As for now, we’re standing watches on what it called T-Track, or Transition Track, which basically means I ask if people have cell phones or often just stand there looking like I have a purpose. Lots of cleaning involved too. I’m still not really enjoying the nuclear field, even though I’m good at it. Yesterday I finally got to resubmitting my officer’s package, though it’ll take a while to get it all set up. I figure there’s no harm in trying and seeing what I can do. If I make supply officer, I’d be really happy. Then again, just as before, I’m terrified of OCS, Officer Candidate School, which is run by Marines and probably a lot tougher than bootcamp — and now I’m in pretty bad shape compared to when I first entered. Oh well, if I put my mind to something, I can make it happen. It just might suck in the mean time.

I still have a lot of dreams, and I’m committed to them, so no matter how long it takes, I’ll keep trying. But, until then, I’m just going to continue doing my thing as Third Class Petty Officer. (The phrase “Take it like a third class” is used pretty often around here.)

All in all though, I’m pretty content with things right now. I’ll probably update this before the new year, but we’ll see!

Hurricane Irene

Irene turns dress whites into dress browns

So Hurricane Irene is kind of a joke. At least it is here. The command had been telling us we’d have to evac to Fort Whatever and that we’d be flooded out. We got out early on Friday and it rained for a while and the power went out. But it came back on and by 1600 it had stopped raining completely. Which meant we instantly got dressed and went to Hooters and got drunk and wing fed. After that our hurricane party took us to downtown Charleston. I have no idea how much money we spent (like 100 dollars alone at Market Street Saloon) but we were a force to be reckoned with. More so than Irene at least. Actually, I think we drank a few Irene hurricanes last night…

I think we were both "that guy" last night.

Although I should be studying more, I’m studying less and less and doing fine (at least until Tuesday’s test…). I don’t really mind this place when I’m not doing 18 or 20 hour days, but it’s not the best. The weekend sounds so amazing on Wednesday and by Friday I’m so tired it’s hard for me to muster up much of an effort. That said, we did a fairly good job of getting ridiculous yesterday. Wilson got ridiculously drunk and threw up in his own car, which is awesome. I hope he’s out there cleaning it right now (it’s like 100 degrees and sunny — ouch). And I finally got some pizza that wasn’t from our galley.

Today I’m doing absolutely nothing. And it feels great. Think I should go get groceries at some point. Hrm, yeah, guess I’ll do that.

Droppin’ Warheads on Foreheads

Getting lunch on the beach at Isle of Palms

Well, I’m back in touch with technology and finally at my command here in beautiful, swampy Charleston, SC (or more specifically Naval Weapons Station in Goose Creek, SC). So far, it’s been really nice, but I haven’t done anything yet class wise, so who knows.

Boot camp in Great Lakes, IL was pretty interesting as an experience. The first few days (and specifically, the first 40 hours) were intense and I just kept thinking to myself, “What the hell am I doing here?” It slowly got better after that, but overall I would say it sucked pretty hard. I spent most of my day standing at attention or sitting awkwardly on the ground cross-legged. My back hurt so much and even at taps (when we get in bed) the racks we slept in had about a 2 inch mattress.

For the most part, I stood around thinking, “Well, this is annoying…” and “When is chow?” — boot camp is a mental thing and much less of a physical thing, though beatings were pretty common. Beatings, if you haven’t figured out, are punishments for making mistakes that involve you doing a lot of eight-count pushups and mountain climbers (and sometimes doing it to Miley Cyrus’ “Another Mountain”!). Google them to see how fun they look. In general, I avoided getting beaten and managed to stay back. But, on one of my four hour compartment watches, I accidentally called a Chief a Petty Officer. The result was not good. I ended up getting dropped for about 30-40 minutes. I’m not sure how long it was, but it felt like hours. I was not a fan.

Liberty with my Dad

A lot of it was fun looking back, though not particularly while I was doing it. The RDCs (Recruit Division Commanders — basically drill instructors) were pretty much the funniest guys I could imagine. The things they said were hilarious, but we weren’t allowed to laugh for the first few weeks, and that proved to be a problem for some. After a while, it became less strict and we were able to laugh freely. Probably the most memorable saying was

I don’t give a fuck. Shit ain’t real!

Although personally, the best thing the RDCs told me was

Chastain, I hope you die in a fucking fire.

That’s pretty awesome. At first stuff like that bothered people, but by the end, we knew it wasn’t really serious. It’s just a part of the job, and it can be funny in itself.

Besides boot camp, I’ve been here in Charleston for a week or so. The weather is humid and gross, and running in it feels like you’re drinking water when you breathe. But besides that, I have very little complaints. The rooms are nice and cold, the food is incredible (this command has the Navy’s only five star galley), and we get liberty on the weekends free from doing watches, which is really good news. The schooling is supposed to be pretty hard, but I’m coming from graduating with a 3.5 from a hard college, so I’m not too worried. Math isn’t my strong point, but I’m sure I can push through.

I’ll go into more detail later, but right now I really need a few hours of sleep.