carrier carrier 1.30.99

Last Thursday evening, the local news announced the arrival of the world's largest warship, the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. It's a big machine.

When I was a little kid I wanted to be a Navy pilot. I carry the flyboy gene, but I lack the eagle-eye gene, so when the big disappointment came during that eye exam in my teenage years (my first eye exam ever, thanks mom and dad, it was right there in the kid-raising manual), it was time to re-think my career goals.

But still there lurk within me the irrevocable passions of boyhood, and they surface when I'm within sight of olive drab or battleship gray. So Friday morning around 0700, I got in the car and drove off to see several billion dollars worth of boat floating in the Santa Barbara channel. Shwing. The drive was absolutely gorgeous. The 65 air was crystal clear in the bright morning sun, the islands just offshore seemed touchable, and the cliffs and hills along the coast highway are getting their smatterings of spring green. I thought about all the miserable cusses living in cold and snow and ice and hahahahaha. Ahahahahahaha.

After a few curves past the coves in Summerland, the road swings around into Santa Barbara and there, a mile off the beach, it sat. The Abraham Lincoln floating on the water just down the mountain from the Reagan Ranch. I imagine these two presidents, both Republican, standing in a room together, having a chat, and every fuse in my brain blows. These are times that try men's souls.

The Navy offers tours to the public on arrivals like this, and what ends up happening is the two communities switch populations -- the sailors invade the town while its citizens crowd the docks, standing in line to go walk around on the hardware they paid for.

It's a good idea, don't you think? Giving the locals a chance to peruse what is essentially to them a movie set lets them look at all the cool stuff, bounce up and down on the iron they bought, and think about the giant nuclear bombs housed under their feet. Then, in the future, when we are in the midst of some international conflict and somebody's about to get creamed, we can all point to the TV and say ooh, look, I was there, go, boys, go. And that's okay, because we're good enough, we're smart enough, and doggone it, people hate us.

I didn't get in line for the tour because I arrived about a half-hour before they had to close the line, meaning my ferry-out time would've been pretty late, and I had to get back home to meet Amy's school bus. So I wandered around the docks, making photographs, looking espionagey in my olive drab cargo pants, photo bag, and aviator's sunglasses. I wouldn't be surprised if some NSA minions made note of my presence, suspecting I might be just the type to slip into the sea and do MacGyver things.

I'm tempted to go back tomorrow morning, around oh-dark-thirty, to get in line to get aboard, just for the sake of photography. But it may rain. And besides, it's Super Bowl Sunday, I can't miss that, can I? Big boat, big game... big boat, big game...

It's so hard to be an American.


today's music:

"Bang And Blame" -- R.E.M. -- MONSTER


today's wisdom:

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted."

- Dwight Eisenhower