December 24th, 2008

Another night with an unexpected course...

...but this time, nearly all the curves that came my way were positive.

I slept in the morning, and shopped and ran (in sub-freezing temperatures) in the afternoon. Nothing big to note there. But then I drove over to RB's house (which, by extension, is also his parents' house), and met up with him and D-Rod. Our destination was the Main Street Café, whose burgers are the stuff of Northport legend.

When we arrived at the Café's front door, the place was jam-packed like nothing any of us had ever seen before. The wait for a table would be a bit, so we walked over to a new addition to Main Street, the Northport Tasting Room and Wine Cellar. Not exactly my cup of ethanol; I prefer to roll in the Trent Willmon way, which is to say I'm a beer man. RB and D-Rod took seats and ordered a glass each. I looked around, taking the place in, at which point this time-filling crisis was happily solved. I was approached by someone who looked familiar, but I'm terrible with faces, especially ones I haven't seen in nine and a half years. My suspicion was confirmed when he said, "I don't know if you remember me, I'm [LTDan]." He is, no shit, a Lieutenant in the Navy (he went to the "Annapolis Trade School" after high school), so I had to reply, "it's great to see you, sir." We spent the next fifteen minutes or so comparing notes on our experiences. Being as he's an officer, and in the aviation community, his was just a bit different from mine. I asked him if his wife, our class president, was in town, and indeed she was buying wine at the register. (She was also the queen of homecoming in twelfth grade, and he was nominated for king. Unquestionably, they're the "First Couple" of the Northport High School Class of '99.) She eventually came over and we caught up a bit more, which was certainly more amicable than the last e-mail correspondence we had in college (which, I believe, consisted of shit-talking about our schools' hockey teams - she's a Harvard grad). After they left, I rejoined my friends at the bar, at which point D-Rod asks me, "who was she?" And then we commiserated over the fact that RB and I were nine days from commencing the calendar year of our ten-year high school reunion. (Which, to my knowledge, isn't yet in the works.)

We left the Tasting Room and headed back to the Café, where the crowd was no smaller, but we were far closer to being seated. Finally, we were, and RB launched into the epic of his recent experiences with Internet dating, and shared his joy over working for Apple. I talked about what the Seagoing Military Force is really like, bearing out RB's observation that it's "brief periods of awesomeness, punctuated by long stretches of routine, frustration, and petty regulations that exist to preserve the bureaucracy." D-Rod's biggest contribution was making observations about the beauty of various females in the room. The sing-along concluded with "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Each table and section of the bar had a number assigned to it, corresponding to a verse of the song. We had number seven, and I must say we did the swans-a-swimming proud. "Five golden rings" was a disaster, and I was confused by the last four verses (the traditional, vice modern, lyrics were used). The prize went to the table with three, which became "three effin' hens" in the later stages.

That song was followed not long after by the appearance of two classmates who I saw four weeks ago on Thanksgiving Eve, one of whom has some ancient history with RB. The meal and the merriment pressed on, with a most unwelcome interruption - D-Rod spilling his glass of Cabernet all over me. It was bad enough that I was all wet and my clothes were stained; more importantly, he abused alcohol. Of course, I gave him shit about it for the rest of the night. We settled up and retreated to RB's house, needing some time to work through the beverages we'd consumed. Joining us during this interval was Brewmeister, who's hosting New Year's festivities I might be attending. As with dinner, much of the conversation centered on RB and the women he's meeting and greeting on the computer. He also related that he's rising quickly in the Apple world, and that they're really pushing to get him out to Cupertino to finish his training early next year. RB got me a book (John Green's An Abundance of Katherines) and a CD (A Fine Frenzy's One Cell in the Sea). He got what he knew he'd be getting for a few weeks - Between the Lines, the Sara B DVD. The night finally wound down about midnight; I concluded mine by snapping a few pictures, including one of the still-jumping Main Street Café.

When a night leaves you smiling, laughing, and full, it's not hard to overlook the stains of burgundy on your jeans. It was far superior to staying home (or going to the Coliseum) and watching the Islanders lose again. If this is the way the week's going to go, I'll have a lot of difficulty pointing my car in the direction of New London on Saturday.

Some of the images of the night:
Real Me of Genius, Northport edition
Left to right: Brewmeister, D-Rod, Carbs, RB.
Main Street Cafe
When you order a burger from here, you don't eat it, you experience it.
Northport Tasting Room and Wine Cellar
"[RB], how many d--ks did you suck and favors did you call in to get a wine tasting room down here?"
Mr. Carberry, you have wine all over your pants.
"It's's the pleats. It''s actually an optical illusion, it's the pattern on the pants, it's not flattering in the, the crotchal region."

Not Worth Undertaking...

On the heels of the Physical Training Uniform and the Service Uniform comes the Navy Working Uniform, or NWU. This is designed to replace, among several others, the utilities worn for normal work in-port, and it's based on similar styles used by the other services. Take a look:

Much has been said on this thing already. I'll aggregate the facts and opinions already out there before giving you mine:
Navy Times: 08-12-17 | FAQ
TSSBP: 08-12-17
No Slack, Fast Attack: 08-12-03 | 08-12-16
Rob's Blog Online Magazine: 08-12-23

Most of what's found behind those links has to do not with the NWU itself, but with the standards and regulations that accompany it. Before I get into that, let me talk about the duds. I'm not a fan of these things. They seem heavier and bulkier than the utilities we wear now, and that's a negative in the confined spaces of a submarine. I don't particularly want to blouse my pant legs into my boots. And this thing is designed to be worn in an all-weather environment. For someone who works in the engine room, this isn't so much a concern in port; once you're back there, the temperature variations are relatively minor.

This changeover wouldn't be nearly as bad if it weren't accompanied by a squeezing of the restrictions on the uniform's wear. Present regulations allow for utilities to be worn on base, or to make stops like pumping gas or retrieving children. In the NWU era, those stops...are done! Nothing less than a genuine emergency justifies appearing outside your vehicle off base. This is the biggest issue the Fleet has with these new uniforms, and it's a legitimate gripe. On Monday, as I transited across Long Island Sound to my ancestral home, an Army specialist was wearing his digital cammies on the ferry. Not that I would do so while on leave, but it saddened me that my service was going to a similar uniform without a similar policy. Command ball caps will also see a diminished role; they're only authorized on a command basis. So one of them could be worn below decks, but when it's FIDE (training simulator) time, you WILL use the eight-point, and no others. Perhaps the biggest example of "visual verification of the small intestine" has to do with the logo on the NWU's left pocket. The NAVADMIN announcing the uniform's rollout spent three sentences discussing the abbreviation for the emblem. "ACE"? Seriously? STOP THE INTERNET PRESSES, I JUST WON BUZZWORD BINGO! I think it's time for some therapeutic lifestyle modification1; it's cold out, so I need to don my personal protective equipment2 first, because I always use operational resource management3. But when I come back, I'd better see ACE on the shelf next to the administrative deliverables4.

This can't even be called a Godsmack moment; it's more like a full-on Godsmack evolution. But wait, let's take a look at the message again. What do we have here in paragraph eight? "JUL 09 - NORTHEAST" ? O RLY? So, you're telling me that I'll never actually purchase or wear the NWU? Apologies to all who do, but clearly, I win the prize! Cue up Kool and the Gang!

1 exercise
2 safety gear
3 common sense
4 files for the boss