Sunday, May 01, 2011

"Pond would be good for you"

One of the favorite pastimes this Spring for the Hope of 21st Century Civilization--dashes 1 and 2 (H21CC-1 & 2) is slipping off down the hill from the Big House here at Eegeebeegee to the shores of Lake Brenda for a fishing trip with the Colonel.

The Colonel fishes.  The grandsons..., not so much.

Not unless you define "fishing" as peeling off every stitch of clothing and participating in a full, frontal frolic in the shallows.  

This afternoon the Colonel sat watching the two splash in a muddy froth at water's edge and was reminded of the scene in that cinematic classic, Caddyshack, when Bill Murray's character asks Chevy Chase's character if he had a pool at his place.

Chevy's character answers, "We've got a pool.  And a pond.  Pond would be good for you." 

That reminder sent the few remaining cells lying fallow in the amorphous goo settled in a cranny in the Colonel's brain-housing group into a dizzying dance down memory lane.  One particular memory parked in long-term parking at the synaptic terminal leapt to the fore and the Colonel remembered the first and next thirty times he watched Caddyshack.

Nearly three decades ago, the Colonel, then a brash young lieutenant, was assigned as the Training Officer for the HQ of the 31st Marine Amphibious Unit, forward deployed in the Western Pacific.  On amphibious shipping in those days movies were shown each night on the mess decks and in the officers' wardroom.  The movies were played on 16mm reel-to-reel projectors and flashed onto large screens.  Ships left port for several weeks at sea with a few dozen movies and would trade movies with the sister ships in their squadrons at sea.

Most of the movies were horrible.  Often, only one of a dozen would be worth watching at all, and when that one was determined, it was watched repeatedly.  

Caddyshack was the best of the bunch on one stint at sea, and that tells you exactly how bad the movies were that were given to ships at sea in those days.  On the night of its first showing in the wardroom, it was immediately re-wound and shown again.

Bill Murray blew up the gopher tunnels three times the next evening. 

By day three, many sailors and Marines on board the USS Tripoli had huge chunks of the movie's dialog memorized.  By the end of the first week, the sound was turned off while the movie played and members of the audience spoke the lines.  

In the wardroom one evening, instigated by a group of young officers, with whom the Colonel can neither confirm nor deny conspiracy, a majority of those who showed up to watch the twenty-something screening of Caddyshack were not in the required uniform of the day, but rather wore golf attire or a reasonable facsimile thereof.  The officers sat waiting on the ship's executive officer (aka: XO; second-in-command) to arrive so that the screening could begin (the Commanding Officer had his own mess and the XO, therefore, was the senior man in the wardroom).   

Every time the door to the wardroom would open, all eyes would turn expectantly to see the XO's reaction.  The XO was running a bit late this particular evening, attending to some important matter relative to keeping the water on the outside and late-comers were streaming into the wardroom, delayed by their own duties relative to keeping the water on the outside.  Each time, an officer would either enter in golf garb or quickly run back to his stateroom to change when he noticed the situation.    

The XO was a man not particularly known for his sense of humor.  The atmosphere in the wardroom full of officers in unauthorized attire was a mixture of nervous giggling and tense anticipation.  More than a few officers thought better of the whole deal and slipped out of the wardroom to change back into the uniform of the day--only to be met by a chorus of cat-calls when they returned.

At last, the door to the wardroom opened and the XO strode into the room.  Before he could launch into his customary "Lights, camera, action!," he was stopped short by the undisciplined sea of non-uniformed officers flooding his normally highly disciplined and formal wardroom. 

The XO's head swung back and forth, and a deep frown slowly took control of his facial features.  He spun on his heel and left the wardroom, slamming the door behind him.

Several other timid souls bolted out behind him.  The rest sat in stunned silence.  One of the ship's department heads finally stood and addressed his fellow department heads.

"We probably shouldn't wait for the XO to summon us.  Let's go to his office."

They left, and the rest became..., well, restless.  Several more timid souls bolted to change back to the uniform of the day.

Suddenly, the wardroom door slammed open and a voice boomed, "Attention on deck!"    

The XO strode in wearing a brightly colored shirt and the loudest pair of plaid trousers this side of Baton Rouge.  "Gentlemen," he declared in a serious tone, "I apologize for my earlier appearance in an improper uniform.  As for those of you not in the proper uniform,"  he motioned to his own attire, "for this evening, and this evening alone, you are excused and may return when properly attired."   

The Colonel is thankful that the dwindling collection of cognitive cells in his grey matter can still cobble together that particular memory.  It's a good one.  Still displaces his perpetual frown with a smile to this day. 
    
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