I was born in Norfolk, Virginia 65 years ago. There was nothing exceptional about the event. I can scarcely remember the occasion. I was cold, the light was very bright and everyone was wearing white. That is about all I can remember of the day. Let’s move on.
Right from early childhood, I was a problem child. Not really bad, just a problem. At thirteen years old, while melting homemade rocket fuel in my aunt’s oven there was a “minor” explosion that resulted in the oven door leaving its hinges at a fairly high rate of speed. Debris covered the walls and the two-story house instantly filled with smoke. My aunt was not amused. I learned from the experience that you don’t melt rocket fuel in a gas oven and that my aunt could wield a pretty mean stick.
One of my rockets was launched seconds before the Great New York City Blackout of 1965. The timing could not have been worse. Key turned, system live, three, two, one, liftoff. Fifteen seconds later New York City was plunged into total darkness – the biggest blackout in the history of the country. I grabbed all my launch equipment and headed home, trying not to look guilty. For days, I thought my rocket hit a main power junction that took out all of New York. Imagine how relieved I was to find out that the problem stemmed from something in Canada, well out of reach of my rockets. If you ever launch a rocket seconds before a major blackout, try to look just as surprised as everyone around you and remember that you have the right to remain silent.
In later years, I embarked on a high school science fair project that involved putting mice in a diving bell in deep water. As luck would have it, the bell was temporarily lost when a large sea lion decided to get playful. I called Mom and asked her to bring additional air tanks to the beach. When she arrived, I was nowhere to be found, so she concluded that I drowned. About ten minutes later, I popped to the surface just in time to greet rescue squad trucks, ambulances, divers, boats with sirens blaring and one screaming woman. It was too late to pretend that we weren’t related. The mice almost had heart attacks. Way to go, Mom! I did win First Place in the High School Science Fair though.
I started SCUBA diving very young and absolutely loved it. Every weekend, I was on a boat in the ocean – summer and winter. There were times that I had icicles hanging from the bow railings. I dove almost every deep wreck down to 200 feet on the Atlantic coast between New York and North Carolina. I have been inside wrecks that went down in storms or were torpedoed by German U-boats. I absolutely love the ocean. I would live on a boat if I could but my wife is terrified of the water. When I turned 52, she told me I was too old to be swimming with sharks. It was just a couple of years earlier that she told me I was too old to be jumping out of perfectly good airplanes. You can just imagine her reaction when I told her at 61 that I wanted to go bull riding. That was a non-starter.
Being a child of the sixties, I particularly enjoy 60’s rock. I also enjoy country, classical music and jazz. A lot of today’s rock turns me off, especially rap. Barf! However, having had teenagers in the house, I now understand the pain I must have inflicted on my parents. My parents just couldn’t understand the Doors, Rolling Stones, Beatles, Jefferson Airplane and Led Zeppelin. Well I can’t understand my kids’ music either. We have come full circle.