In 1964 when I started the senior year at Dorchester HS in Boston (Where BTW I had always received decent grades), but by the 25th of October I was bored to tears and needed a way to satisfy my wanderlust. I had always wondered what was over that next hill. That day I walked out of school and went to the Boston Army pier took a test and physical and the following day I was standing in the US Navy Boot Camp in San Diego CA. and damn if it wasn’t a warm sunny October day. Score one for the NAVY, as it was a cold back in New England. BTW I received a HS Diploma from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and a Bachelors degree from the University of the Virgin Islands. Which I mailed to my mother and then forgot all about it, as I’d kept my promise that I made to her in 1964.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that leaving school early was a foolish thing to do, yet I did have a productive career in the Navy. Owned two successful night clubs in Puerto Rico, and went on to earn over six figures a year as a Merchant Seaman plus seeing most of the world. But I’ll further admit I was the exception to the rule. Thank you both fate and karma.
The Navy decided to send me to school to learn about radios, I had no desire to learn about radios, but there was a guy in my boot company who did, and he had orders to a Ship in Mayport Florida USS SABINE AO-25, It was now February 1965 and still cold in the Northern part of the country. The Navy let us swap duty and there I was breaking rust in the warm Florida sun and loving it. The ship was heading to Europe (Mediterranean Sea) Hmm I’ve never been there, let’s go. Later I made a deal with the Navy; I’ll take any crappy duty you have, as long as it’s someplace warm. Well Bergen Norway in December above the Aortic Circle wasn’t quite what I had in mind, but the Navy tried its best to live up to its end of the deal.
If you remember last week (Get a Wife, Chang Your Life) I mentioned that I’d left most of my life up to Karma and Fate. Twenty two years have passed, I had tried marriage back in the 1960’s early in my life, and found it lacking. So now here I am, retired from my last Navy Duty station which was Naval Station Roosevelt Roads Puerto Rico in 1986, I now owned a beach condo (Free and clear) and deciding to take a year off from work and relax. I do that very well.
Remember that fate stuff? I came off the beach at 1500 hours a few months later as, it always starts to rain that time of day, and was pulling my Radio Flyer wagon with cooler, beach chair and boom box up to my friends bar for “Happy Hour” On the way there was an elderly lady selling Lotto Tickets, and I stopped and bought a few. That’s right fate caused me to buy a winning ticket, at $ 25,000 (Tax Free) Hmmm, I’m in a bar, I like bars, I should own a bar. Karma; what a funny deal that is.
A few years pass, I’m in my second bar on the beach in Playa Azul Luquillo Puerto Rico, life is good, and I’m making a buck, I now rent my Condo by the week to tourists and I’ve moved to a small beach house. Ahh that tricky rascal Karma, 1989 Hurricane Hugo roars ashore and in 24 hours I went from hero to zero, Condo torn up, (But insured and they paid) House and Bar destroyed by 15 foot tidal surge. (Insurance called it an “Act of God” and refused to pay) Well I’ll assume I need a new job. BTW, even though the church will collect money in the lord’s name, they refused to pay out for any damages. Which I think they got the idea from the Insurance Companies.
Off on a free evacuation flight to McDill Air force Base Tampa Florida on a C-5a. All banks are closed in Puerto Rico plus no ice for Rum & Cokes, so I had only $35, 00 in my pocket. And the Red Cross was going to give me $250.00 for some reason. I had flown up with a young Navy wife, who had three kids with her and no place to go. The Chief Master Sergeant (USAF) assigned this old retired Navy Senior Chief a car and driver, and told the young man to take me wherever I needed to go (Within reason) If you are wondering why, it was because I gave that Red Cross money to that Navy Wife with the 3 kids.
I landed in Treasure Island Florida (Suggested by the young Air Force Driver.) which is by Saint Petersburg. I liked it from the first minute, a laid back beach town with a pirate as the town’s mascot. Seriously what could be cooler than that?
I got a job with the ABC Liquor Stores chain, but was almost not hired. The Regional Manager told me that I was over qualified because of my Navy experience. I asked him if he’d ever had an employee who has no idea how to phone in sick? Because the Navy plus owning my own business it was something I had never done. I started the next day. I was a manager within six months, and at two years he presented me with a two year tie pin I put my motorcycle in the warehouse and started bar hopping (On foot) stopping at every bar putting that “PIN” in front of me., I put in my 4 week notice the following day, the boss laughed and said; “It was that damn pin, wasn’t it?” I went that week to Miami and applied for my Z-Card (Merchant Marine Document)
Four months later I was on the USNS Mars (TAFS-1) in San Francisco, heading to the Persian Gulf by way of Guam. 20 Ship tours later (Some repeat tours on the same ship) and the rest is history. So between the US Navy, and the US Merchant Marine, I’ve been around the world quite a few times, and as any sailor will tell you, the best port visit, was the last place you were, or the next place you’re going. It’s all up to Fate and Karma. And as Sonny and Cher would say; “The Beat Goes On.”
KIDS: Stay in School, as fate and karma can only do so much.