Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Feed The Crew Part 2

WARNING!!! The following series of blog posts has a tremendous amount of gratuitous profanity. Including liberal applications of the f-word. Normally, I do not use overly foul language on this blog. The furthest I go is the rare use of the word 'shit.' And I have never used any derogatory words for women, sexual organs or any other objectionable language here. But this post deals with a subject of which I am very familiar, i.e., a semi-fictional account of a day in the life of a cook on a Navy ship. And Navy cooks, at least the ones I worked with, swear...a lot, like, uh, sailors. And as much as I hate to say it, the sound of a bunch of crazy, wound up cookies using terms like "Golly, gee", and "That's neat" would not be in the least authentic. So if you are easily offended by coarse language uttered by young men in their 20's working under heavy stress in a difficult job, then you should skip this post and come back when I've posted something more family-friendly. Otherwise, read on. You have been warned.

Mitch opened the galley doors and turned on the lights. We stepped into the galley and started turning equipment on. While we were waiting for the gear to warm up, Mitch handed out the assignments. In addition to him, there were four other guys on the watch. Myself, who would be doing the grill items, Gary who was on fryers and did some copper work, Wayne who was the other copper cook and Joe, was on ovens.

Gary was like me, a third class petty officer who had been in for three years. He liked his booze and his women the same way...strong and capable of getting his dumb ass into trouble. He would chase anything that wore a skirt and even remotely showed any interest in talking to him. The problem was that he had the fucking social skills of a sledgehammer. He had no tact whatsoever, and usually the first words out of his mouth had something to do with going straight past 'Hello' to "Hey, Baby. Let's Fuck!" Suffice it to say, this didn't get him very far in the date department. But he held his booze well, and was usually a happy drunk as long as no one mentioned his ex-wife, whom he caught doing the tube snake boogie with his best buddy back in Houston in 1980. Rather than killing them both and spending the rest of his life behind bars, he decided to divorce the bitch, let her have the kids and then enlisted in the Navy to make a clean start of it. From that moment on he had complete and utter disrespect for women and treated them like shit, mostly to get back at his ex. In the galley, Gary was a shit hot cookie. He worked his ass off, cooked good chow, got his assignments done quickly and helped the slower guys out just to stay busy. He had only one year left on his enlistment and was debating whether to re-up. He had the taken the second class test once, and did well on it but in the MS rating, the number of guys going for E5 versus the number of guys actually needed to fill the Navy's quota worked against him. He decided to take the exam again later in the year and if he didn't get his second class crow, he'd get out. But he didn't want to go back to Houston. He knew what was waiting for him there, and he wasn't going to let that ruin his life.

Wayne was an E3, a Mess Management Specialist Seaman from Chicago, who once was a third class until he decided to rearrange a Marine's face with a beer bottle in what could be described politely as an inter-service difference of opinion. It seems that he and this jarhead were drinking in a bar on the strip a few months ago when said jarhead started mouthing off about the Navy. He maintained that the Navy was full of prissy faggots and that no sailor would even make it past the first week of Marine boot camp. Wayne, being a proud Navy man took exception to this insult, and when challenged as to what he was going to do about it, promptly grabbed his beer bottle off the bar and clubbed the Marine upside the head. This started a hellacious bar fight which resulted in the destruction of the bar, 10 sailors and a dozen Marines being arrested, and poor Wayne losing his crow. The Captain reamed him out at Mast for getting into it with the Marines and lectured him about how squids and jarheads are all on the same team, and the usual interservice co-operation bullshit, but Wayne could also tell in the old man's voice that the CO was secretly proud of him for sticking up for the Navy. Wayne loved the Navy, and even though they took his crow away, he was hard at work doing his courses and exams to get it back. He grew up on the mean streets of Chicago's South Side. His father left him and his mother when he was six months old to take up with some slut he met on a business trip. He resisted the drug and gang scenes, did fair to middling in high school and in 1979, when the time came for him to decide what to do with his life, he went straight to the Navy recruiting office and signed up. He wanted to get out of Chicago in the worst way, and the Navy was his ticket. And living in Chicago, he didn't have to fly halfway across the country to start his career. He just had to go forty miles North to the Great Lakes Naval Base for boot camp. After boot, he went to MS "A" school in San Diego, graduated in the top 5 in his class and was assigned to the Alameda in 1980. Despite losing his crow, he had never had a cross word about his choice of career, and didn't tolerate anyone from another branch of the services talking shit about the Navy. Like all sailors, he bitched and complained about the usual shit that sailors bitch about, but he credited the Navy for saving his life. Like Gary, he was a good cook who did his job, liked his drink, and made the best of his situation.

Joe was the youngest of the crew. A MS Seaman Apprentice, he had just graduated from "A" school a month ago, and this was his first ship. From a forgettable one stop-light town in the ass-end of one of those big, flat midwest states, Joe had never been out of his hometown until he joined the Navy. He came from a family of military men. His father and grandfather were in the Army and saw action in Vietnam and WWII, respectively. He had one brother who joined the Marines, while he himself signed up to be a sailor. He was still very much a new boot having only been in the service for 10 months. He was very surprised when he reported to the Alameda about the sorry state of the galley equipment. Apparently, he wasn't paying attention to the MS "A" school Commanding Officer's traditional admonishment to the weekly graduating classes to forget everything they learned in school once they got to the Fleet. He was constantly bitching about this oven not working and that griddle being out of calibration, and the rest of the watch pretty much ignored him. He was quick to make his feelings known to the division chain of command, who politely listened to his grievances and then told him to shut up and turn to. As a result he had a bad attitude and let his work reflect it. He was lazy, slow, not particularly good at cooking and clearly didn't give a damn. Mitch wanted to get rid of the shitbird in the worst way, but the division was short-handed to begin with, and the galley sup couldn't spare anyone to take the kid's place. So he had to try and work with Joe to get him squared away. Although Mitch was starting to think that the asshole needed a more forceful attitude adjustment...like a blanket party.

End of Part Two