Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Fondness for Sad Memories

My first school after boot camp was DLI (Defense Language Institute) at the Presidio of Monterey in Monterey, California.  Boot camp was in San Diego.  The two are 7 to 8 hours apart, even longer when you are relegated to Greyhound, but considering I had something like 50-60 hours before I had to report it, that wasn't really a problem.

You are 18 years old.  You've just completed Navy boot camp, two months that were frankly quite boring.  Apparently, most people would take the bus, arrive in Monterey and try to relax for a couple days.  I wasn't most people.  I took the bus another 2-4 hours up to San Mateo to visit my aunt and uncle for a day, then took the bus back down to Monterey and reported in after 10 pm on Sunday night.

The first month at DLI, they try to pretend it is like any other A school out there.  You can't leave the base.  The closest to not wearing your uniform you are allowed is your PT clothes.  After the first month, you might as well be in college except for wearing the uniform to class.

I quickly started exploring Monterey on foot once I could leave the base.  A 10 to 15 minute walk got you to Fisherman's Wharf, Cannery Row, Lover's Leap, or the beach.  You could eat good seafood, watch sea lions fighting to claim prime tourist locations as theirs, or spend hundreds of dollars on nautically themed wool sweaters.  Generally, that is more than enough to keep most newly enlisted students occupied.  It was not enough for my overly energetic feet.  I found myself walking ever further from the mainstream paths, until eventually, I walked all the way to 17 mile drive in the middle of the night, by the coast line.

The walk from Lover's Leap, past Pacific Grove, to Assilomar is not one many people take.  I don't really understand why as you pass some of the most beautiful coast line in the Monterey area.  Rocky beaches and the constant susurration of the surf pair with the loneliness of the road at night to make for a peaceful traipse, if you have the patience and the time.  Also, starting as it does from the aptly named Lover's Leap, the mood quite suited a man who was often depressed about love.

I spent many sad, lonely nights wandering the streets of Monterey, Pink Floyd's The Wall often keeping me company.  And, when it was most appropriate of course, generally in the rain.  I look back on those nights with fondness which is strange in that I wasn't very fond of them at the time.  Many of the seeds of my later depressions found fertile ground in my random hauntings.

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