Friday, January 25, 2008

Educational Experiences

[Date & Place: 4th week of November 1957 (I'm eight), Pacific Ocean, 33-35 degrees north.]

I had the idea that our ship was going to have to stop at Hawaii on the way to Taiwan. Won't they have to stop at a gas station somewhere? Where else could they stop?

Well, it turns out these ships are fitted out to steam over 5000 miles without refueling, and that's just what this one was going to do. We were going to take a great circle arc from San Francisco to Tokyo, and then continue on to Taiwan. The leg of the trip to Tokyo would be non-stop. It's 5,250 miles. That part took us about 11 days if I remember right. That works out to about 17, maybe 17.5 knots steady. We're we speeding? Is that normal? I don't know.

So anyway, our course took us nowhere near Hawaii. On one of the decks there was a giant wall map with pins in it and string and a little ship icon to let the passengers know where we were and where we we going to be and had been. Very educational. We skirted the Aleutians instead.

I don't remember how many decks were accessible to passengers. I think there were 4. There was a lower deck that only had cabins. Above that there was a deck that had a large community room with sofas and coffee tables to gather around. I met all the kids in that room. For a while Diana and I both hung out there and played card games and traded military dependent stories with the others. That deck also had a small theater, where movies were shown every day. There was a deck that had the galley and mess. There was an open upper deck where you could sun yourself and get almost a 360 degree view of the ocean.

Diana and I didn't limit ourselves to the accessible decks, though. When we came to signs attached to chains stretched in our path that said, "Off Limits to Unauthorized Personnel" Diana pointed out that "Unauthorized Personnel" meant civilians. We weren't civilians, we were dependents. I wasn't sure that was accurate, but when she climbed under the chains and kept going I had to follow, to stick by my girl.

The other kids caught on quickly and we endured a lot of teasing. Very educational. Especially Diana's reaction. "They're jealous."

But the most valuable education came when Diana and I got into an argument over whether Superman was real. I think the actual question was "Could Superman fly?"

[Right: In 1957, what Superman looked like.]

I said, no one can fly. She said, Superman can. I said that's silly. She said you're silly.

Somehow, maybe it was the power of infatuation and the desire to suck from her mouth, I suddenly got it.

Oh!: If we're going to talk about Superman, we need to accept the premises that attach. To not do so is to crush imagination, a crime against humanity. Yada, yada.

At the time I didn't really believe that. I just believed that if I pretended to believe it I might get closer to kissing Diana. But the next day and the next, the idea worked on me, and by the time we did kiss, I believed it with all my heart, and still do.

A life without imagination is a life without soul, not worth preserving.

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