Hong Kong - February 1993
The last couple of days before Hong Kong got really hectic. We were having flight quarters two or three times a day and I don’t have my relief as Helicopter Control Officer trained up properly yet. Plus I have to stand watch and there is my job I fit in between special evolutions. The biggest nightmare was the night before we pulled into Hong Kong.
COMDESRON 23 decided that the USS Leftwich and the Reeves should get ahead of the battlegroup and do some exercises with a British ship, the HMS Peacock. Why they scheduled this between 0100 and 0400 I don’t know. And to make matters worse, they give us this 10 mile by 10 mile box to stay in and conduct the exercise. Well no one told the three hundred or so Chinese fishing junks. It was hell. We could have thrown baseballs at some they were so close. Of course there was no moon and the weather sucked. I had the watch and was not happy. So here we are doing tactical drills with the HMS Peacock and the Leftwich amidst a huge fishing fleet. These guys go out for the night, throw out their sea anchor and then go to sleep! Even if I wanted to call them on the radio, I couldn’t because some woman was obviously drunk and singing on the bridge-to-bridge radio in Chinese. And Chinese is not a soft pleasant language either. So here we are in the dark talking to the British and the Leftwich and some drunk woman is singing on the radio. Well after five and half hours I crawl to my rack, only to awaken an hour later for sea and anchor detail as we pull into Hong Kong.
I love Hong Kong and Hong Kong loves me. The weather sucked, so instead of sightseeing I went shopping. I had made this firm resolve to buy certain items and not spend more than a thousand dollars. Notice how that is all in the past tense? The first day I was really good and only bought some CDs. But Saturday was a killer. The Crypto Officer onboard, nicknamed “Scratch” (don’t ask), took us to the computer district in Hong Kong. I am now writing this letter on my own laptop! It’s a Compaq Contura for those of you in the know and it has a 40MB hard drive and 4MB RAM. The company also gave me Windows, Windowworks, and Excel. Plus this comes with an attachable mouse. It got it for $1200 and I was told it’s a really good deal. If it’s not, don’t tell me. Let me enjoy my delusion for a bit. So here I had bought a computer and no gifts. But I had maxed out my credit card, which was not pretty, and I still had a pocket of monopoly money (i.e. HK dollars) left. So I hooked up with a friend of mine and headed to Stanley Harbor. SB, Mom, and Dad are set for birthdays and Christmas. My BNL was no so lucky. I also bought some more contact lenses here, not a bad price either.
Well I got to meet a friend of mine from Hawaii here. Debbie was a PR exec and got this scholarship to study at the University of Hong Kong. What a scam. She doesn’t have to go to class, take tests, or write papers! Plus she has traveled to the Philippines, Thailand, China, and Malaysia using money from her stipend as a “visiting student”. It was enough to make me ill. She likes Hong Kong, but she says she wouldn’t want to live there. She said Hong Kong was the second most stressful city in the world, second only to Beirut. Go figure. She is Chinese and speaks Mandarin and Cantonese. A really smart girl! She took us to some of the hip clubs in Hong Kong and we had a great time.
I only had one duty day in Hong Kong and was sure I’d get to finish this letter and some other stuff. Not so. The new Ops officer is my command duty officer and is not really familiar with the ship. So as assistance CDO, but fully qualified CDO, I was doing it all basically. The Command Duty Officer is the acting Captain when the Captain and the Executive Officer are off the ship. If I had to, I could get the ship underway without the Captain using the duty section personnel. But it wouldn’t be pretty. And technically it could be construed as mutiny. But details. Of course the night before I was in Lan Kwai Fong, the night club district, and have a really good time which I regretted the next day.
I did manage to get the Georgetown and the American University grad school packages out. The Johns Hopkins package is still missing an essay. “What book, musical composition, or work of art has most inspired your and why?” What? What does this have to do with going to grad school? So I pondered this question for several days. Now you all know what a sophisticated, knowledgeable, and worldly gentleman I am (no snickering thank you!) and that narrowing down the choices was going to be difficult to say the least. I kept a list to review: Water Lilies by Van Gogh. A Protrait of an Artist As A Young Man by James Joyce. Ride of the Valkryes by Wagner. Campbell Soup by Andy Warhol. Sex by Madonna. Rock the Casbah by the Clash. I mean the possibilities are limitless. I figured that everyone was going to write on the classics, so I figured that I’d be different. I like Campbell Soup, but it really hasn’t inspired me. And Rock the Casbah is a classic, but a little dated. I’m moving into the techno sound anyways. So that left Madonna’s book “Sex”. Now I thought about how it has inspired me for a couple of days (keep you mind out of the gutter, I’m a scholar thank you, or atleast will be soon enough) and jotted down a few ideas. Then someone asked me I really thought that “Sex” was a good idea to write about or if maybe the Admissions Committee may not have read it. I was shocked. It just wasn’t something I had considered, the good idea thing I mean, I knew they had all read it. But my shipmates convinced me to re-think the “Sex” thing and I decided to search again. Well the winner, after a long and exhaustive search . . . . “Ten Thousand Leagues Under The Sea” by Jules Verne. A classic, but not world famous piece of literature. I can tie the Navy, engineering, and international relations all into one book. Of course the kicker is that the whole essay has to be 500 words or less. So I’m going to go through it carefully and see if I can make my points concisely and clearly.
I got a welcome aboard package from my new command. I knew I was going to COMNAVCOMTELCOM in Washington DC, but I really didn’t know what that stood for. Now I know. Commander, Naval Computer and Telecommunications Command. It is not at the Pentagon, yea! It’s just 4 blocks from American University. I am way psyched. They assigned me a sponsor as a point of contact and I plan to get a quick letter off to him before we pull out of Singapore. We pull into Singapore tomorrow at 0600. The traffic has been horrible and it will only get worse. We are in the traffic lanes from Singapore to Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan. I just want to get a carrying case for my laptop, look for some presents, and go out a couple of times. Max sleep is the main mission. I play to stay onboard a couple of nights and definitely back early on the other nights. It looks like a port visit to Muscat Oman is in the works after Bahrain. Who knows. I just hope Saddam has ODed on valium while we are there.
Well I’m going to end this so it gets out on the first mail run in Singapore. Hopefully the next part of this saga, from Singapore to Bahrain, will actually get out. Please write if you get a change. Mail is few and far between, but much welcomed. I’ll try harder also!