Thursday, February 12, 2015

Will Work for Food

Public Domain
Yesterday I regaled you all with a tale of my retirement from the Air Force. Many of you may be wondering, "So what do you do now Sarge, what with that massive military retirement check you get every month? Which tropic isle do you live on? What's it like owning your own private jet?"

Massive military retirement check? Um no, it's nice but you can't live on it. Well, I suppose I could if I did not mind moving to a Third World country. Which yes, I do mind. Though I'm good with languages, I kind of like my home country. I mean, "The Constitution!" Am I right?

Tropic isle? No, I live in Rhode Island. Which is not tropical by any stretch of the imagination and I don't actually live on an island. For you see, Little Rhody's official name is "The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations." The Rhode Island part is an actual island which is known locally as Aquidneck Island, or as the residents call it, "The Island," as if there is no other. I live in the "Providence Plantations" part of the state. Not an island, not tropical. (Last I looked, the snow was still coming down...)

My own private jet? Again, um, no. If I did own a private jet it would no doubt be made by Monogram or Hasegawa and would look nice on my desk but I couldn't go anywhere with it. Let alone fly. Not unless I put it in my carry-on luggage on a commercial airline.

So Dear Reader, when I retired from the blue machine, I had to get, what we in the military used to call, "A Real Job."

Regular hours, higher pay, different benefits, less job security. But when I retired, I was still looking. That is, I went from being in the military to being unemployed. (No, not like those guys in the picture. I did have the Air Force retirement check, those guys, they had very little. Or so I'm told.)

So what did I do? Ah, therein lies today's tale.

With that being said...*

After a long flight from Brussels, we stepped off the plane at Bradley International, The Missus Herself, The Naviguessor, The Nuke, The WSO, Pat (our German-born feline, somewhat bedraggled and not very happy about coming to the New World in steerage, after a fashion) and Your Humble Scribe. There to be greeted by my parents, who kindly offered their services as hosts until such time as I myself could find gainful employment, and they were accompanied by my brother The Olde Vermonter and his wife, the lady my sister-in-law, Mrs. Olde Vermonter.

We all piled in to a rather large van and after a two hour journey northward, we arrived at our temporary home.

We settled in to Mom and Dad's humble abode (not the house where I grew up mind you, The Olde Vermonter and his tribe were then, as now, the occupants of the ancestral palace) and I began my search for a paying job. Equipped with college degrees and a fairly good internet connection, I searched the electronic world. I believe played a role in that search.

My father, being very old school, thought that looking through the want ads and pounding the pavement were the way to a technical career. I explained that, "No dear Father, this internet thing is all the rage now. I enter data, people look at the data and before too long... Voilà! I shall be employed."

He was, shall we say, skeptical. He did help some, taking me to offices where "we might have something..." and then later we went to job interviews farther afield. Each opportunity seemed rather like something a high school graduate could do. Things seemed rather, I don't know, "minor league"? Not that I looked down my nose at these opportunities, but they were all very tentative and "we'll let you know." One fellow actually mentioned that I might be, how do you say, "over qualified."

Of course, I was. But I wanted a paying gig, damn it. Someone hire me, I'm very loyal and won't go haring off to new opportunities just for a few more bits of silver. No, that's not my way. Trust me.

But all was for naught. It seemed that I might, perhaps, be living with my parents for a long time. All involved looked upon that prospect with a certain, shall we say, trepidation? Yes, yes, we will say that. Because guests, even beloved, blood relative guests start to wear upon a household over time.

And there were seven of us and three cats in one rather small house. Two bedrooms, there were days when the place looked like Oddball's encampment in Kelly's Heroes. Seriously.

Okay, kind of like that. But without the tanks. The music was different too, but if you've seen that film, you get my drift. It was, in a word, crowded. And disorganized.

Eventually the day came when I was contacted by a headhunter.

Public Domain
No, not that kind of headhunter. The corporate recruiter kind, think guys in suits. Hhmm, he called me on the phone, so perhaps he wasn't actually wearing a suit...

I don't know. Not material to the story and it's a bit of a digression. But you knew that, didn't you?

So within a day or so, I was in receipt of a package containing airline tickets, hotel reservations and instructions on where to go when I arrived.

Seems I was to fly to Geneva, there I would seek out a man wearing a red carnation in his lapel, carrying a day old copy of the Times. I would go up to him and say, "Pardon me, but aren't you Vasily Zaytsev?"

No. Of course not. I was to fly to Ft Wayne, Indiana, pick up a rental car at the airport, then drive to Don Hall's Guesthouse and check in. The next morning I would go to an interview.

The company I was interviewing with was (and still is) a defense contractor. So first things first, a urine test.

And here I thought I had left the military.

Well, the nice nurse started to explain the niceties and the whys and wherefores of the need to test...

I jumped in and told her that I had recently retired from the Air Force and knew my way around a sample bottle. Render it hither, says I, and do you need to watch?

At that she chuckled and indicated that I could fly solo as it appeared to her that I had no hidden vials of urine secreted about my person.

That being done, off I went.

Interviews went well. That afternoon I flew back to New England, after a lovely (uh, no) sojourn of eight hours in the airport at Pittsburgh. While there are worst places to spend eight hours, it was still eight hours.

A second interview (with a branch of the same defense contractor) happened a week or so later. This time I didn't need to fly anywhere. The interview was in Rhode Island.

Oddly enough, though I grew up in New England, I had never been to Rhode Island. Ever. Because, you see, Rhode Island is not on the way to anywhere from western New Hampshire  (Mom and Dad's house) or eastern Vermont (where I grew up). So to have visited Rhode Island as a youth would have required us wanting to go to Rhode Island. Closest I got was Cape Cod. Normally we summered (a weekend here and there) in Maine. A glance at a map will show you that Rhode Island (from the aforementioned locales) is not on the way to Maine. Unless you get lost. Very lost.

Well, first time in Rhode Island, I fell in love with the place. All that salt water appealed to me, for I have ever loved the sea. (So why didn't you join the Navy Sarge? I said I loved the sea, didn't want to marry it. Besides which then I wouldn't be the Old AF Sarge, I'd be someone else. Then who would write all this and, and... - Yup, digression.)

So it came to pass that I received two job offers. One in Ft Wayne, one in Little Rhody. The offer in Little Rhody was five grand more than the one in Ft Wayne. Knowing what I know now about the relative cost of living in those two places, Ft Wayne was probably the better deal financially speaking.

But Ft Wayne has no ocean. No chowda, no lobstah, no quahogs.**

Choosing Little Rhody was a no-brainer. Not to mention it was a lot closer to family.

So that's how it came to pass that I live and work in Little Rhody. By the sea. Dining on chowda and lobstah every day. (No, not really. State law says I have to say that. Again, no, not really.)

Yes, I do like it here. Even though, as of late, the weather has been much too northern Vermont for my tastes. I mean there's a reason I went south. Kept going until I hit the ocean and could go no further.

What's that, a right turn then a left and I'd be in Florida? Where it doesn't snow?


Nah. Way too hot and humid in the summer. (Though right now, hot would be nice. Real nice.)

Temperature in Little Rhody, as I type...

** Chowda = clam chowder, lobstah = lobster and a quahog is a type of clam. That latter word is very, very Rhode Island. The other two words are very, very New England. Someday I will teach you about coffee milk and cabinets. But not today.


  1. Stationed in Newport three times (2X War College plus one Destroyer tour--before Nixon pulled the fleet out). Built my first house there (in Portsmouth, off turnpike Avenue). Also numerous school postings. Great place and loved it, particularly summers. Sea detail on the forecastle outbound in Narragansett Bay was--interesting--in February.

    1. I have been on boats just off Beavertail Point (southern tip of Conanicut Island) where you begin to feel the swell coming in from the Atlantic. That was in summer. I can imagine that in February it might be a little "sporty" and cold. Especially on the fo'c's'le.

  2. Replies
    1. I love creating acronyms.
      My favorite is still on a personalized coffee cup (or two) that remain from those days when I got to stare at radar repeaters and wear an R/T headset.
      It simply says IHTFP.
      I have to admit I didn't create that one, but purloined it from some fellas at Operation Deep Freeze.

    2. Gee, I can't imagine what that might stand for.


  3. "No chowda, no lobstah, no quahogs." You got the accent down perfect. Love "chowda" and "lobstah" but never heard of "quahogs"!! But if it's shellfish, I would like it.
    Another great tale!! You wouldn't like Florida summers, I used to live there. Too crowded, too humid and to quote from one of your earlier tales, "too icky" The only thing
    Florida had going for it was the ocean and I loved that. I spent my summer after getting out of the AF taking tourists out deep sea fishing. Fun times but no future in it!!

    1. Spent a long summer in Biloxi, later we visited kin living in Louisiana and the Florida panhandle. Too hot and humid is something of an understatement.

      Somehow I have trouble picturing you as a deep-sea fisherman Russ. Buffalo hunter, cavalry scout, no problem. But a sailor?

      But hey, sounds like fun. (Beer was involved, am I right?)

    2. Sailor might be stretching it a bit. You'd think that someone who could take some very wild and rough flights without getting airsick could handle the ocean without getting seasick. I can remember some fishing trips where the rollers out of the south were running 6 - 8 feet high and I definitely came close to feeding the fish my last meal. But beer always made it better!!

    3. Those kind of waves can be dicey in a smallish boat.

      Beer, it's good for what ails you!

  4. I've been in 45 of the 50 states (57 if you're a fan of the current occupier of the White House). The only way I can check off Rhode Island is that we were lost, very lost, and missed our turn. I was neither the driver nor the navigator for said trip, just a guy in the back of the van. Pretty much everybody was asleep as it had been a zero dark thirty departure from NAS Brunswick. We had to pass the 'Welcome to Rhode Island' sign before the driver had to admit that he was lost.

    1. Hhmm, I will propose to the Governor that the signs welcoming one to the Ocean State should be re-worded thusly:

      Welcome to Rhode Island
      You Are Lost

      Appropriate given all the liberals and progressives residing here.

  5. I have had clam chowder in Olde England but the New England variety was better! And aren't there hens in Rhode Island? Red ones?

    1. Rhode Island has their own variety of clam chowder, about which the NY Times cooking website had this to say:

      Clear clam chowder originated along the southern coast of Rhode Island, where it is a local delicacy much to be preferred over the creamier version of Boston to the north and the (to them) criminally tomato-hued style served in Manhattan to the south and west. Eating it recalls the feeling of pulling into Block Island after a long day at sea, scented with salt spray, and sliding into a clean bunk to sleep.

      I do concur that the abomination called "Manhattan-style" has never touched my palate. Crediting the creamy variety to Boston puzzled me. A true northern New Englander considers the best clam chowder to be made in Maine, not Boston.

      Now that clear stuff is anathema to many a northern New Englander. I prefer the "real" chowdah, but I have tried the clear variety. It was not unpleasant.

      And my education continues, I had no idea that one could get clam chowder in Olde England.

      You refer of course to that most excellent of chickens, the Rhode Island Red. So excellent that an Air Force fighter squadron (the 67th) and a Navy fighter squadron (VFA-22) have the rooster of that species as their mascot. A wondrous bird.

  6. 43 out of 50. Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Ohio and Rhode Island have avoided my illustrious presence. Got a Rich, Liberal, Screwed up (but I repeat myself) Aunt by marriage in Mass, so am unlikely to make it to 50 anytime soon

    1. So you have been to Vermont and New Hampshire.

      There are a lot of rich, liberal screw-ups in Mass. Oh wait a minute, you said "screwed up" - my bad.

      I guess we'll have to have the blog convention somewhere else? (What blog convention he asked...)

    2. Summer of 72, I went to visit my Mom's Brother in upstate NY. His wife inherited a fortune in land and cash and raised Rhodesian Ridgebacks for showing. I went on the Dog Show circuit to shows in NY, VT and NH. Conversations would start with Nixon as a War Criminal and devolve from there. One evening, she postulated that everyone in the military was a baby killer. It got really ugly when I reminded my uncle's wife that my father was in the military and was at the time stationed in Vietnam. Going on 43 years since I've spoken to the woman.
      And, in my vernacular, screwed up and screw up are not mutually exclusive.

    3. Copy that on the "not mutually exclusive."

  7. Brr? I'm glad I had my kids before I went to T.A.O. school at the Navy base there in Newport RI, because I froze my balls off while I was there.

    1. Oh you Sandy Eggo types with your "Boo hoo, it's cold out there..."

      Er, actually excuse me for a moment, I need to throw another log on the fire. Bloody cold out there!

    2. BTW, what is the "snowmaggedon" condition in RI?

    3. We still have a foot to a couple of feet still on the ground from a couple of weeks ago. More is in the forecast.

      No doubt the Weather Channel will name the storm and predict the end of life as we know it. At least until next week.

      Maybe another foot on Sunday? Not much to an old Vermonter I suppose, but I left there long ago.

  8. R.I.? One trip, 1959 delivering an airplane. Bucket list includes touring New England, not just in and out.

  9. In the summer of '84, I spent two weeks at Newport attending an NJROTC course. Highlights included sailing small boats on the bay, and driving the YPs over to Fall River, MA to tour USS Massachusetts. The weather was quite lovely. Sadly, my schedule kept me from touring the town of Newport itself, which my parents tell me was quite lovely. The architecture of the naval base itself was standard issue government 1950s drab.

    1. Some things have changed about the architecture onboard NAS Newport, some remains probably as you saw it in '84.

      USS Massachusetts and all there is to offer at Battleship Cove is one of my favorite things about living here.

      Newport is lovely, and not just the mansions which I think are overdone, parts of the town have a lot of "Old World" charm.

      If you ever get back this way, I trust you'll look me up.

  10. Been to every single one except for... Rhode Island! I've always been told that yes, it does exist, you just can't get there from here.

    Now just for fun, who's been arrested in the most states? You can take the sailor out of the navy but you can't take the sailor out of the sailor...

    1. It's not on the way to anywhere and it is the smallest state in the Union.

      Do tell as to who's been arrested in the most states, inquiring minds want to know.

    2. To be fair I have to start with a disclaimer. Arrested in the sense of being taken into custody (cuffed and stuffed) and spending minutes-to-hours in the local station lockup. I guess that to claim the following as arrests is to practice stolen dishonor. However:

      California, 1, bar fight, released to command.

      Virginia, 2, bar fights, released to command.

      New York, 1, bar fight, released and told not to come back, ever. To the state.

      North Carolina, 1, misunderstanding in a bar, released because the Sheriff knew my CO.

      Pennsylvania, 1, bar fight, released on promise to straighten up and fly right.

      All but the last one happened in my first 20 months in the nav. The last one was after desert storm, when "sojers' were momentarily held in real, non-simulated esteem. Kinda looks bad from today's perspective (like I could be a writer for Ron White), but things were different bitd. Not sure anyone can prove that things are better today.

    3. Back then that was along the lines of "boys will be boys." Nowadays? Katie bar the door!

      Cuffed and stuffed, to me, that's arrested. Course, I ain't much of a lawyer.

  11. So that's how you ended up in R.I..... Funny how doors close behind and the right one opens for us at the right moment, not that we necessarily recognize it at the moment. I was extremely lucky when the calendar ran out on me. After about 30 job announcements I threw my resume in all over the Northeast, I picked off one here and not only at the same pay but my daily commute ended up 10 minutes shorter. I couldn't have orchestrated that if I had two years to plan. Which I didn't.

    As for the states, the only ones I have not visited are the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico, and Alaska. Did some TDY to Newport and the former Lipstick 6 and I visited there twice, once on a cruise up the east coast into Canada.

    1. I'm thinking I can probably get a post out of "Places I've Visited" especially states, not that I've been in that many.

      It is odd how me being in Rhode Island came to pass. But I'm ever so glad it did!


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