The Vietnam War was well underway in the early 70s, and I flirted with the Navy as a place to go after I graduated from Chapel Hill with a degree in Physics. They offered me good money. Twice. And I even took the exam, AAFES, again twice, I think. I also think I have that acronym right. Who knows, though, as it's been some 40 years.
But it didn't work out. The Navy was all over me going into something called the Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate (NUPOC) training. In hindsight, that was probably a good opportunity and by now, I'd be a retired submarine commander. (Assuming I could pass the personal interview with Admiral Rickover.)
However, I wanted to fly, and the recruiter was truthful regarding how my vision would make that impossible. This was long before the days of corrective surgery. He did say I could be a navigator. Being somewhat of a smartass even then, I simply responded that if I can't be the catfish I'm not gonna swim.
The thing was I wanted to fly a fighter off a carrier. That takeoff has to be the best kick in the ass short of riding the space shuttle. Yes, I wanted to fly the fucking F16, which came online a few months after I graduated. (We can thank Dos Gringos for the adjective.)
So instead, #1 Son is in line for that duty, and in his sharing some of his experiences as he passes through the stages of training, I find myself living vicariously through some of what might have been, right down to the very occasional sip of Jeremiah Weed. Unfortunately, we can't have the flaming shot as we salute today's cold sunset because North Carolina doesn't carry the 100 proof variation, but this is the South, and I believe we can make do JW's Sweet Tea.
I rarely have a taste anymore except after a race, but tonight I'm making an exception.
Fox 1 is for the inventors of the corrective surgeries that allow the nearsighted wannabes like I was to embrace their dreams as they choose. Besides, they get to wear some of the coolest shades on the planet.
And yes, I do know what Fox 1 really means, and I'm taking poetic license with the term, along with the other two, for the evening.
Fox 2 is for the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell. My sexuality would have been a problem for me in the military during that time, but those days are mostly gone now, though I'm sure the culture has a bit more adjustment to make.
Fox 3 is for me. I have managed 60 years on this planet, and while we don't have any promise of one day more, we do have what we have, which for me is substantially different from what I would have made it, not that many people get their druthers like that. However, don't see this as a regret. I don't carry many regrets. That's a substantially unhealthy thing to do.
Now let me be clear. I have no intentions of running away and joining the circus. However, if the US military were to open up F16 opportunities for Old Farts, I'd be one of the first in line, and I could easily make do with the F15 and F18. No problem whatsoever. Yes, I have a propensity for air sickness, and I'm quite certain we can learn how to manage that. Until then, I'd keep my belt filled with barf bags. I'll say the same thing if NASA ever advertises for an Old Fart crew to send on a Mars exploration mission.
But neither of those is going to happen, and I'll continue to occupy myself with the steady stream of paying work that keeps my refrigerator filled, not so much because it keeps me from being hungry, but because it keeps me in fresh running shoes and MP3 downloads of Dos Gringos, wherein I find my daily hour or so in which I get to be the catfish, if at least in my mind.