Return to Australia

At Little Creatures, one of my favorite places to eat and drink at in the world
At Little Creatures, one of my favorite places to eat and drink at in the world

Some years ago, I first traveled to Perth, Australia to do a semester abroad. When, of course, would I ever have the opportunity to go to Australia ever again, right? Well, welcome to the Navy where the world’s most unlikely coincidence is somehow possible. As soon as we got word on the boat that we would be pulling into Australia, the crew’s morale was insanely high.

From the few people who have been there, Australia is know as the world’s best liberty port. Historically speaking, it has been. In World War II, girls used to line up at the pier as American submarines pulled in. It’s not as glamorous now as it used to be, but the reputation still precedes it. These days, only one, maybe two, submarines even pull into Australia anymore. We were actually the first Virginia class boat to come to the country — and this led to pretty much every Aussie on their Navy base coming over for a tour. As a perk of being submarine qualified, I got to give tours. Me and Pendergrass and Miller slammed out some impressive tours; I hope they were very impressed with our professionalism and tact. I traded all sorts of cool things with the Aussies, including a pair of their warfare pins.

Delicious kangaroo tail kebabs
Delicious kangaroo tail kebabs

And back to the unlikely coincidence — I pull into the one place I lived just down the street from, Fremantle, Australia. Immediately I took to contacting Chloe and Osca from many years ago. Osca was traveling through South America, but Chloe was still there. It was great to meet up and see each other after so much time. How strange to be back. I even saw Osca’s sister just by coincidence. I think she was surprised to see me hah.

Because I had lived there, I was able to give the crew lots of tips for places to eat and drink. And that’s pretty much all I did. We managed to get some great stories, and also get kicked out of the same bars I had some seven years ago. It was like home sweet home. I had 3 real free days in Australia, and I made sure to make the most of it. I was allowed to stay in a hotel for this port. Although we shared a room, getting to sleep on a fold out bed was a true highlight. Taking a real shower, wow, what an experience. It’s amazing how much you appreciate the little things after not having them. I still haven’t managed to sleep under a set of sheets since August, but maybe in a port down the road.

Our giant posse of lesbian tour guides.
Our giant posse of lesbian tour guides.

Anyway, being our friendly selves, we linked up with a huge posse of the friendliest lesbians known to man. They became our tour guides and drove us places and even took us home to their families. Australians are time and time again the most hospitable, friendly people on this earth. No one else on this planet could take a bunch of cursing drunk insane sailors in, and then do it again for the recovery the next morning. I am truly impressed with Australia, yet again.

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.

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!

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.


That Book Changed My Life

So, I just posted a few seconds ago about my Spring Break in Austin for SXSW, but I wanted to make a separate post for one of the funniest stories I can imagine.

I'm actually a vegan, I swear.

After Brennan and I got finished with a technology conference, we were already feeling a pretty good buzz and started walking throughout the 6th Street area when we realized we were starving and hit up the nearest source of food, a pizza cart. We started smashing on some meat lovers pizza, when, like the true hawks we are, noticed an attractive female ordering a pizza and holding some book. I decided the best thing to do would be to start a meaningful conversation with her, so I approached her and said “that book changed my life”. She turned around and started agreeing with me and explaining how the book illustrated why the meat industry was the worst part of America and that she converted to a vegan diet after reading it.

That’s about the time that she realized we were both talking to her while eating a meat lover pizza. Brennan made probably the funniest face I’ve ever seen when I said “Yeah, this was just my one slip-up”.

This has to be about the best timing on anything, ever. The moral of the story is that she turned out to be a bartender, thought our massive bullshit introduction was hilarious, and actually bought us shots at her bar when we finally figured out what it was called. That’s how winners play Austin.

“Spring Break” 2011

I’m putting that in quotation marks because I no longer have a Spring Break because I have somehow turned into an adult. That said, I really needed to catch up with all the people I have been telling I would catch up with for years — and this is the perfect time to do it before I ship out on May 17th. Pretty much everything worked out time wise, so I decided to take off this past Wednesday and head into Austin for South by Southwest (or SXSW), which is basically a festival films, technology, art, music, and food. So, uh, pretty much everything I like in one place at one time!

Having a slightly inebriated converstaion with Angelo, the CEO of deviantART

So, Wednesday I headed to Austin for my first event, a Texas devMeet with a lot of the core staff (and friends!) from deviantART which was put on at the Spider House off Guadalupe. I met a lot of new folks because it drew such a crowd, which was nice, but it was also comforting to see the rest of the Texas devMeet guys from our annual meets. We’re pretty much family now. Lots and lots of history there. Interesting how bonds like that form.

I got to talk to Ryan, the creative/marketing guru for dA, and I think we talked way too long about demographics, but for us it was an enjoyable experience. And, of course, I got to see my former bosses, Heidi and Danie, who were pretty awesome. And finally, I had a few drunken rambling conversations with Angelo, the dA CEO and all around badass. During this entire time, I was working on getting completely plastered, at which I completely succeeded.

Finally, we headed to another venue to wrap up the night and I really can only say that I hope they expected me to be truly a memorable experience. I was all kinds of nuts that night for a lot of complicated reasons. In turn, if I ever get to meet them all again some day, I believe I will be “that guy”. Ha.

Thankfully, I survived the night and found a place to stay. I ended up getting some breakfast with Charlie, one of the elite SXSW photographers this year, and a Texas devMeet regular and had more random conversations about life. Good times.

Koreana, the world's best place to eat. This is not an exaggeration.

Following that, I headed into San Antonio to link up with Christian and see if he had been betting his life savings on the field. We hit up Koreana off Rittiman and had the best meal in the entire world. I forwarded this image to Dan and he instantly started crying. What a baby. After that, I linked up with KJ, Dylan, and Craig (and worked in a trip to Taco Taco with KJ the following morning before heading out). Then, we did Bays, like the classic Trinity experience where an entirely hammered Rob showed up. Of course, we managed to get to Crabby Jacks (and didn’t even get kicked out). I got to see Stephanie again, which was nice, even though she lost all of my elite CD collection.

After hanging out with Rob for a while that next day (until Ariel came in town!), I got a call from Brennan, the source of my exploits from last year’s spring break. I headed that way and met him in Austin for a SXSW feature about the future of technology in ten years. Unfortunately, the most memorable thing about it was an egg toss and a four dollar Bud Light, but after this, we were set and ready to party. Along the way, probably the funniest thing possible happened to us. But, as usual, it all went down at and around 6th Street (though there were noticeably less people than usual — I guess they were at the VIP parties).

When I woke up, I called up Scott who I went to Creekwood Middle School with in Kingwood, and ended up reuniting with in college freshman year as incoming Trinity freshmen. We ended up making margaritas and heading to meet other Kingwood friends like Matt and Aaron to swim at Barton Springs, a really beautiful natural spring with a nice park area. Then dinner at Garj Mahal, the best Indian place I’ve ever tried, and then back to the 21st St Coop, an interesting coop with a bar set up and lots of music and places to gather. We listened to some screaming music and drank, but the highlight was just getting to see all the guys again.

I wanted to make this post immediately after I got home, otherwise I would delay it and forget it like I usually do. I had a really, really great time. I think it was such an interesting Spring Break because I had four completely unique experiences: a devMeet, a Trinity-style night, a Sam/Brennan 6th Street rager (Sam was with us in spirit. 5 dollar liquor pitcher? Absolutely!), and a chill reunion with my best friends from my childhood. Seriously, what more could you ask for?

There was a possibility of staying another night, but I really had to get back because of work (and my body had become  a living alcohol sponge for days straight). Next week will be cut short too because then I’m heading to Houston to see Emily.

Spring Break, Round 2 — coming soon.