Ending the Year

Well, as you can imagine, I haven’t updated this because I have absolutely no free time and I never get online. Oh wait, I actually have so much free time that I have no real excuse for not updating stuff and putting this post up. As before, I am currently in a hold status in Charleston at NPTU, Nuclear Power Training Unit because of a bunch of problems with our submarines. While technically I’m assigned to the MTS-635 (Moored Training Ship), I actually have been driving a bus since September when I first got assigned to NPTU, aka Prototype. It’s been really relaxing to do nothing, but it makes me wonder how much I’ve forgot — and how much it’ll suck to be leaving at 4:30 AM and getting home at 8 PM every night. I’ll be a zombie, I’m sure of it.

Posing for what was one of three hundred million photos for my mom. Our faces hurt from smiling!
Posing for what was one of three hundred million photos for my mom. Our faces hurt from smiling!

Anyway, the good news about being on hold is that I got to take a 13 day leave, my first in around a year. Thank God because even working a few hours a day still means that I’m stuck here in Charleston away from family. Carissa and I fly into Midland on November 30th, and the following morning we announced that we have secretly already got married. Yep, that’s it. I’m a married man. How strange is that?

To us, it just sounded logical and we knew we were right to be together. I didn’t see the point in prolonging an engagement because I have literally no clue when/if I will get out of Prototype, and how my leave schedule would be. This way we were able to get the paperwork done, get IDs updated, bank information changed, military insurance, and all that other fun stuff out of the way. Don’t worry though; we still plan on having a wedding/reception some time in the future, somewhere. The idea will be a small service in the reception area, and then have a lot of fun and party. The honeymoon is our big focus because we know only a few members of the family will ever get to be together for the wedding since her family is in Ohio and mine is, of course, in Texas. Perhaps we’ll meet in Savannah, where her mom currently lives. It is a beautiful city, so it’s possible. But, I’ll talk about this more in the future. Just writing it down because I’ve had to explain it about a hundred thousand times already!

Koreana, the best Korean food/any food that I know of. It's enough to send Dan into tears just thinking about it!
Koreana, the best Korean food/any food that I know of. It’s enough to send Dan into tears just thinking about it!

So, back to leave. We stayed in Midland for a few days, then went to San Antonio to see my relatives, Cathy and Dennis (and their big Huskies!). I’ve always loved San Antonio, and I’ve spent so much time there because of family and attending Trinity University that I knew all the cool places to go. We did the Riverwalk, ate at fancy restaurants, saw the Alamo, went to Market Square, and a few other places. Carissa definitely loved San Antonio the same way I did. The weather was in the upper 60’s the entire time, making it amazing for walking around and being devoid of tourists since it was December, after all. There’s still more to do in San Antonio, so next time I’ll make sure we get to see it all!

From there, we headed to Austin (and I gave Carissa her first kolache, the best pig in the blanket concept ever made). We were able to meet up with a couple of people, Charlotte from Wisconsin, who I studied with in Australia (random, I know), and see my buddy Scott, who I went to middle school and Trinity with. We toured the state capitol and went to some museums, but we stayed away from 6th Street, which is probably for the best (we had been getting really, really drunk in San Antonio!). After that, we drove into Dallas and saw my mamaw and a few other relatives, before meeting up with Logen and Ashley. It’s been forever since I’ve seen them and it was great to introduce them to Carissa. I miss those two so much because we’re all opinionated assholes.

Fat Ava, the laziest damn dog alive and my princess, who I love dearly. She has her own leather couch. Throne?
Fat Ava, the laziest damn dog alive and my princess, who I love dearly. She has her own leather couch. Throne?

After that, we were going to head to Houston but scheduling and finding a cheap enough hotel was an issue, so we had to miss out on seeing Faber, which sucked, but there will be plenty of opportunities in the future. We were dead tired by that point anyway. Not sure how I did it all the last time I was on leave! So, we headed back to Midland and hung out with the family. Carissa got to have her first barbeque, including some of the best brisket ever (thank you Howard!). And, we had time to see my niece, Genevieve, who is absolutely wild and in love with puppies. All in all, it was such a much needed break.

But, that was a few weeks ago and now we’re just back in Charleston, waiting for it to finally get cold. We don’t really go out much because we’re on a budget and Carissa is always working, but then again, it’s amazing to just get to hang out around the house with her. We both have an intense love for sleeping, which is where a large part of our free time goes. Thankfully, we balance it with exercise.

So other than that, Happy New Year! I hope it’s been as good of a year as it has been for me (minus six months of hell in Nuclear Power School). See you in 2013.

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.

The Six Flags Story

Scott at bottom right and me standing behind him.

I had meant to put this story up ages ago, but I kept forgetting about it. Only recently did someone remind me about it, and I’m glad that they did. Sometime a few years back, my friend, Scott, and me, used to go to Six Flags pretty much every weekend. We had one of those season passes and it was always a great break from college. Or maybe just part of the experience.

Scott and I always did pretty dumb things together from the start. This actually goes way back to middle school where we first met in 6th grade. It was just a fluke that we ended up together, considering we both graduated early, etc. Either way, after one particularly good night doing the college lifestyle, the next morning we decided to go to Six Flag’s Fright Fest. It was still relatively warm and there weren’t too many people yet, so we decided to hit all the good rides first.

Scott wasn’t feeling too great from the night before, and I recall him throwing up a few times on the way there. He decided he should get something on his stomach, and so he bought some popcorn from the vender right after the gate. By the time we made it to the first ride, The Poltergeist, it was obvious he was feeling considerably worse. We looked really out of place next to all the little kids in their Halloween costumes, but we pushed on. I’m not sure why we thought it was a good idea to go on one of the faster rides right off the bat, but we did anyway.

About half way through the ride, I could see Scott’s face and he obviously was not doing well at all. So, by the end, he was fighting with the restraints and I kept screaming at him to not puke on me over and over. He held it in and wormed out of the chair restraint and jumped out out of the ride right as it pulled in. Immediately, he ran over to the edge of the platform and threw up a disgusting mixture of last night and gross leftover popcorn for the day before. I was dying laughing — it’s always good to see a bro in pain, after all.

What we didn’t realize is that immediately below the platform was a little girl exiting the ride. This poor girl was soaked in vomit, covering her princess outfit. We both realized we just ruined some little girl’s princess dreams; she’ll be scarred for life on one of the great’s American holidays. I’m truly sorry, but it was one of the best coincidences in history, and my favorite Six Flag story.

Back to Work

Emily and I at a club in Houston. I absolutely miss the stupid fun nights we used to have!

Well, leave was fun. I pretty much had a complete blast, but now it’s been a couple of weeks and I’m right back in the thick of it until May. May cannot come soon enough. Every day I wake up and wonder “What am I doing?” At night, I actually hate going to sleep because the thought of tomorrow sounds so awful and I want to avoid it at all costs. I have progressed to a point in between apathy and just existing.  Now, I know that might sound like a desperate sign of giving up, but I mainly am just trying to coast through to the end of this. Right now, if I failed out of the program and was re-rated, I would be happy. I would, however, be more happy if I made officer. Still working on that process, but as before the Navy, it’s a complicated one.

That said, I’ve been doing pretty overall. My grades are okay and I’m still making enough effort to get by, even if I don’t really care about what I’m learning right now. I really did need that leave to give me a break from this place, and it was everything I could have imagined. I got to see Emily, Lizz, and Logen in Midland; Stephanie, Christian, Jesse, Rob, and my aunt and uncle Cathy and Dennis in San Antonio; Kayla, Brennan, and Andi in Austin; Emily, Jason, Eleina, and Dee Dee in Houston; my relatives and my grandma in Dallas. I almost saw my middle school friend Pierce in Houston as well, but his girlfriend got bit by a rabid animal. That’ll happen. I even almost made it to a New Years Eve party to see Tully and the gang, but I missed that. Heard he broke his arm being hammered. Ouch.

HIGHWAY TO THE DANGER ZONE.

This weekend has been a needed relief too. I don’t know how I will string together my sanity to get through Power School, but I’d like to personally thank MLK for having a dream, so that I could sleep in and have a dream myself. I managed to just hang out and have a good time this weekend, not working too much, and seeing a little of the Charleston sights with (my boy) Kapoi. We hit up the USS Yorktown, which I have been wanting to do for a while. Pretty badass. We had planned to see Ft. Sumter but it was way too cold to deal with that ferry ride.

Today was just sleeping in and work, but tomorrow is another fun exam over things I don’t care about. About one or two exams a week every week until I get out of here. The only good thing is that I will have a good amount of padding points wise to scrape by. I already threw the honorman out of the window, so I’ll be shooting for passing. (I’m not just good, I’m good enough.)

I’ll try to keep updating this, but man, I really don’t do anything. I feel like the weeks blur by and it’s all a game about passing time. When you sleep as little as I do now, you’re never really awake and never really asleep.

Fitness

This was the before photo, but it was already after months of improvement

This really has been echoed in the past by a lot of attempts to get in shape that really failed miserably. The main factor in my failure was doing little to no cardio (eh, who am I kidding, it was just no cardio). As well, I didn’t have a gym so I thought that if I did a billion sit-ups and push-ups a night I would be in shape, but I couldn’t even manage to keep that up regardless. So, last year, literally Jan 1st 2010, I decided that I would start going to the gym and working out. The results have been pretty incredible in a year — or at least, I think so. The real motivation were the comments I kept getting from friends and family describing me as “able to drink a lot of beer” or “having a lot of fun in college” when they pointed at my stomach pudge. Gross. Well, I guess, thank you family because it worked and it was actually in a good time frame, considering I joined the Navy soon after. Mentally, I had already been mulling over the option and so it helped me get the routine started.

This was in mid-October, still work to be done

Initially the January through April period I had just bought a lot of stuff to do at home because I was embarrassed about going to a gym. One, I looked pretty awful, and two, I had no idea what the equipment did or how to use it. I had never been to a gym, never ran on a treadmill, or did a lat pull down. And, my gym at the time was provided as part of my tuition at Trinity University, so that meant I would have to see close friends, most of whom I felt where completely ripped and would think I was a fool. I realize now that most people who are working out actually really like helping other people and giving pointers. After all, getting in shape is kind of like a club. We’re all addicted to it and we want to get more people to join in.

I opted to take bi-weekly progress shots to help me get motivated as well, and that was, at first, horrific, and later, much more pleasing to reflect upon. The first time I went to the gym I got on the treadmill and tried to do a mile at 5 MPH, which was impossible. I couldn’t breathe and thought I would die. Yes, I’m serious, I was that out of shape (thankfully though, I was only 218 lbs at my fat kid peak, so it wasn’t awful on my frame). I still remember the moment I did a ten minute mile. I felt like a champion — and I told a friend who quickly noted that she could do that in middle school. Wow, I was a total joke.

My arm in early October. Neat.

Through a mixture of weights and cardio, however, I am now, almost a year later, in the best shape of my life and really content with my progress. (I can run 7 miles a day easily and I’m usually doing around 40 miles a week, with a day off for just lifting and rest.) The process of getting here kind of sucked. Protein shakes and targeted exercises, lots of pushing myself to limits I couldn’t even imagine being able to go. It really does suck. But if you push through it, I guess anything is possible. The hardest part of it all was starting and then staying motivated.

Get into my belly

I’m actually not sure what I should do next. Get a six pack? I actually think those are kind of gross. I wouldn’t mind getting larger pecs or arms, but I feel like being bulky isn’t really good for the Navy. And although the Jersey Shore says being a juice head is a good goal, I’d rather be slim and trim. Currently, I’m about 170 lbs of raw steel and sex appeal. I can always make better my best and I never plan to let it rest, so it looks good for the future. All this said, I still eat fast food at least three times a week. There is nothing in this world that will ever stop me from eating delicious 99 cent chicken sandwiches  from Jack in the Box. I could eat this 3 times a day every day, and, in college, I usually did.

12 July 2010

When I was getting some food, I saw a pretty girl eating alone. I asked to eat with her and she never touched her sandwich, so I asked why. Here is the exact wording of the conversation:

Girl: I have this thing where I can’t eat because my brain tells my body I’m too fat.
Me: Oh, so you have an eating disorder?
Girl: No way! That’s dumb!
Me: You literally just gave the definition of anorexia.
Girl: Oh, but I don’t throw up or anything.
Me: No, that would be bulimia.
Girl: I don’t know what you’re saying so just give up.

I got up and left. At this moment, I don’t think I’m ever going to talk to another person again.

20 April 2010

Note: Below is my senior article I wrote for the Trinitonian (Trinity University’s newspaper) sometime around April 20th. This is the unedited version.

College. It’s really over? It’s hard to reflect on something like this when I’m still writing papers, still walking around campus, and still trying to avoid the garbage they call food in Mabee. Everything is still the same; only after I’m done will I think, “Man, I should have told that story about that one time where everyone got drunk and the rent-a-cops were everywhere and…” – but let’s be honest, that’s a story that I don’t need to tell any of you. Just from the amount of drunken nights where the only memory I have came from photos tagged on Facebook the next day, I know that invariably all of you have been in the same situation at least once. If not, I assure you that you will be.

Just how many days have been a struggle to wake up for class because I was still a little drunk? How many nights have I tried to study and ended up partying with one of you?

Instead of telling you party stories that you can make for yourself, here’s something that happened while attending Trinity that I honestly think can never occur again. It was 3 AM and both of us in the car were coming back from a party. After stopping in Jack in the Box to eat some nasty filth, my friend rolled down the window to order. Suddenly out of nowhere, a human/creature grabs my friend’s hand, slams in a crumpled, wet dollar bill, and screams, “Make change!” Compelled to not be murdered or raped, we scrambled to give him four quarters to get him off our backs. When we finally found enough, he yells to us, “That’s what I get for trusting the cops!” and bolts away into the night. How could I ever forget that?

Somehow, through all of the parties and close calls I made it. I am going to be done and graduated in just a few weeks.

So I want to leave Trinity with another inspiring true story from my life. As a sophomore I went shoe shopping with my friend Cory. While waiting for Cory to take thirteen years to pick a running shoe, I started talking with the sales lady. As it turned out, she was a proud Trinity graduate from 2006. She told me she majored in communication. Awesome. I am a communication major. Surely, I would not end up selling shoes after I graduate. Right?

Now it’s almost May and I’m broke, I have looming debt, and I have no career – let alone a job – in my immediate future. I used to joke that I would end up working at GameStop as an assistant manager. Now I joke that I’ll be working at Jack in the Box as the taco cooker. My joke has changed because GameStop now seems like a viable option. Four years. And there is where I am at right now?

There is a moral here in both of these stories: Trinity can be full of incredible experiences – drunk nights, good times with friends, and even perhaps something that happens in a classroom. No matter what those experiences may be, they are something to remember and something that as you are leaving Trinity, you will learn mean so much more now than ever.