Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

"D'ye know why I hate The Beach, Third Mate?"

Every so often, I remember or imagine a conversation with Shamus, a fine Master of the Deck with whom I'm honored to say that I at least shared a commission, if not a friendship. (I've "changed" his name to not sully his reputation by association with me, a mere boater. He's a Marine, no longer on active duty, which means he works twice as hard for the Semper Fi and I will always admire his personification of the integrity, honor, and principles of The Corps. That made his personal loyalty much more meaningful.)
We got along, the decorated veteran and the avowed peacenik. Because we met on no battlefield, we had a mission "for crew and cargo," and thus the political niceties meant little. The common task gave us a common passion and sharing each other's love for the 169-foot ship model we were delivering left us equal on the deck, alow and aloft.
I was also willing to play Bud Abbott to his Lou Costello. Not because I could have used a few pounds and he was a keg with legs (although that was true).
In that he got the laughs, and I looked like the too-serious unfunny pedant.
"No, Shamus," I would have to say,"Why do you hate The Beach?"
And then he would air: "They've got re-runs of I Love Lucy. I didn't like her the first time, so what makes them think I'LL 'LOVE' HER NOW!? [I] hate The Beach."
He always left that "I" a little unvoiced, swallowed in his brogue, as if to allow those around him on the quarterdeck to join in his (only partly-feigned) scorn for the land full of ninnies and canards that we had just left behind.
It might be later, after a particularly splendid sunset, or over the day's ration of rum, or after a round of drinking songs, that he would excogitate:"D'ya know what they have on The Beach, Third Mate?"
"No, Shamus. What do they have on The Beach?"
"Number counters. Now why would you hire someone to count 'numbers?' I mean, they've already been counted. THAT'S HOW THEY GOT TO BE NUMBERS! Hate The Beach..."
Recently, I was pining for my post at the helm -- any helm -- where I could listen to anyone's musings while keeping a 400-ton hunk of wood and debt zeroing roughly in on an imaginary heading toward an inconsequential dot on an illegible chart of an unforgiving body of water. It was always a fine diversion to dialogue with Shamus, as he could expound on any subject -- an indispensable skill while underway, with a long watch and a wide sea ahead.
A skill which is little appreciated, and often mocked, on land.
Just as that jovial little man, with a past filled with ammo and good intentions, and a duffel filled with drinking songs and camaraderie, might not be appreciated in a world of self-impressed chickenhawks and narcissists with no kind feelings in their hearts or kind words on their lips. Their world, simple-minded and simplistic, its citizens incapable of respecting my esteem for those who were made to don a uniform to protect me and them. "You're a peacenik, a treehugger, a Democrat. You can't have any respect for veterans," they say. Their world, intractable and unforgiving, brainsick and moonstruck, is the one we have to navigate with all the "audacity" that hope and faith can endow.

"The Beach."


Large said...

And always remember why the "bones" are the best instrument to play....

you can hold yer beer in the other hand

I also stand and say no marine ever wore his cover ( hat to all ye civvies ) with as much salt......or pride

ThirdMate said...

I'm sure his steak sauce was busy this weekend.