If you haven't read the previous section, here is is.
Aside from being cold as hell in Great Lakes Michigan in December and January, boot camp was easy for me. It was just a lot of running and doing what you are told. I never volunteered do do anything extra. I never excelled at anything because I quickly realized that's how you end up with extra work. I just did what needed to be done, marched in formation and passed all my tests. They fed me 3 times a day, so I had little to complain about. I actually gained almost 20 lbs thanks to a semi regular diet and physical activity. Life during the tail end of boot caps was a little tough because there was some drama back home that I was helpless to deal with being cut off from the rest of the world. But I worked through it best I could.
After boot camp I was sent off to A-School in South Carolina for 9 weeks to learn how to be a Machinist's Mate (MM). The school was really basic. We literally had a class that was only to learn the name of different hand tools. This is a hammer, this is a box end wrench, this is a Ford wrench, this is an adjustable wrench. ITS NOT A CRESCENT WRENCH!!! They were pretty serious about that one. Anyway, the most useful thing I learned here was how to lap a valve seat. Next I went to 6 months of Power School where they cram near 4 years of college level material into a 6 month program where you are generally expected to be in the classroom for 12 to 16 hours a day 6 to 7 days a week. If you were smashing every test you would be on the low end of that, and if not you never saw the sun. I was middle of the pack.
When my 8 months of training in South Carolina was over I was sent to upstate NY where there is a little known Navy nuclear prototype facility. I would spend the next 6+ months here working rotating shift work and learning how to actually do my job with a combination of in classroom training and actual operation of a nuclear reactor and steam driven power plant. Prototype was hard for me because I had a lot more freedoms than I had prior in my navy career to date, plus a lot more responsibilities. The curriculum was challenging and for the first time since I was 16 I had to take care of myself. There was no base housing, no meal program and no supervision outside of the plant. I struggled because I would put myself in bad situations. I remember one winter weekend that I had a couple days off in a row I decided to go on a trip to see some friends and get fucked up. I drove 3 hours there to see them for a day and a half and the day I was to leave there was a massive winter storm. It was so bad the highways were closed down in one of the States I had to drive through because the plows couldn't keep up. When it got dark I couldn't see anything. The snow was coming down so thick that the glare from my headlights was blinding to me. I literally drove for hours at like 35 mph in my rear wheeled drive Ford Ranger with only my yellow running lights on, unable to see more than a few feet in front of me, hoping that no one else was on the road and listening for the rumble strips on the breakdown lanes on both sides of me to stay on the road. I couldn't see the road, or guard rails, or anything at all. If you have ever been in the military then you know that they don't give a shit what your excuse is. Its not OK to skip a day of work. I made it.
Somewhere along the way I volunteered for submarine service, so when I was done with all the training I was sent to a fast attack class submarine, the USS Louisville. It was stationed in Pearl Harbor Hawaii. Let me tell you, living only a couple miles from Waikiki Honolulu, Hawaii between the ages of 20 to 24 was crazy. Don't get me wrong, I worked a LOT. The sub was underway more often than it was not, and even in port I was on duty every 3rd day for the majority of my time served. The way it works in port is you work a relatively normal 9 to 5 Monday through Friday except its 7 until your chief says you can leave (which as a mechanic was after dinner normally). On top of this you have a duty rotation where every 3 days (or 4 days if we were well staffed) you would work a 24 hour shift and have to stand watch and such. Duty day would get over at 7 am, and if that was a week day, you would stay and work like everyone else until dinner time. If it was a weekend you could go home. So basically you would get 1 weekend day off, both days on every 3rd weekend and I took FULL advantage when I could.
I did a few deployments and got to see a couple distant places I would have otherwise been unlikely to ever see. I bonded with my Navy brothers whom I rarely speak with anymore, yet still feel close to. I partied hard. I never got in so much trouble that it would follow me permanently. I learned how to play poker which would eventually become one of my greatest passions in life.
I was discharged from the Navy out of Portsmouth New Hampshire where we were in dry dock for repairs, on November 19th 2007 after my 6 year commitment was fulfilled. I had saved a bunch of money along the way so I could travel when I got out, and in the spring I did exactly that. I bought a backpack and a one way plane ticket and a 6 month Euro-rail pass and went on an adventure. The plan was to travel on my own for 6 months, and maybe never come home. I didn't feel like there was anything home that I couldn't find anywhere else. I was going to just play it by ear. Unfortunately playing it by ear included getting Mono again. I am 90% sure where I got it. There was this girl I met in a club in Amsterdam. No one needs the detail on that one though.
I didn't feel too terrible for several weeks but again convinced myself i could get through it. I wasn't going to ruin my grand trip because of some bull shit sickness. By Croatia i was really struggling. In Prague I couldn't even leave my Hostel. After 3 days in bed in Prague, I booked a flight home and went to see a doctor. I have still yet to finish my Euro-trip.
Now what? I hadn't planned anything for after Europe. I moved back in with my dad and started playing poker for an income. He and his girlfriend didn't really think that was acceptable. I was considering the idea of going to a local college and getting some sort of degree. They said I could stay free of charge if I was going to school but not otherwise. I offered to pay rent, but they refused. I enrolled in classes and continued to play poker for my living expenses. I think it was a combination of them not liking my poker playing, and also in general being 25 and living with "parents", it just wasn't working out. I remember one day my dad and I got into a pretty big fight. The next day I contacted a job placement recruiter, and within a week I had a job at a nuclear power plant in Vermont.
I lived in New Hampshire and worked in Vermont for several years. Biggest issue for me was I lived over 3 hours from a casino. We had a local small time card room in the town I lived, but it wasn't enough for my needs. After some time I started looking for jobs near legitimate casinos with legitimate poker rooms. It was surprisingly hard to find a nuclear job closer than an hour to one. I broadened my search to anything power related. Eventually I landed a job at a solar thermal plant about to be built an hour outside of Las Vegas. I would be hired there for the initial construction, commissioning and commercial operations. I was very good at my job there and I learned a massive amount about a plethora of things I was never exposed to in the nuclear world. I was the operator at the controls the very first time we ever applied "flux" (redirected concentrated solar heat) to the first plant. The plant was the largest of its kind ever built, and had a lot of growing pains along the way. I didn't mind that so much, as every day was just another challenge to get through and something to learn and/or improve. I was the "lead technician" for a crew of about 8 people, and I oversaw the work of the rest of my team. I worked hard to train them well and they rewarded me with their competence. I believe my crew was the best crew there, and I took pride in that.
The company I worked for made a lot of promises to their customers and investors in the beginning that they couldn't keep in the end, and as such before too long every time something went sideways at the plant management would be put under enormous pressures from the top who's only concern was the financial repercussions. The job became pretty stressful, and the hours became very long. Lots of overtime was handed out and it was not voluntary. I've never been the type to live to work. I work so I can live. So eventually I decided to move on to a career in hydro electric power where I continue to work to this day. I really enjoy it and I intend to do it until I no longer need to work anymore.
Here we are now up to present day. I've skipped a lot of details of course, but this will make for some good posts in the future. As I am before you I might be the least shy introvert you can ever know. I plan on taking this blog down my life path, with a healthy dose of introspection and reflection. Topics will vary significantly, but will surely include poker, crypto curriency, food/cooking, motorcycles, football, gaming, investments, politics and whatever else life throws my way.
I am very excited to share this with anyone who might care to read. Please feel free to be interactive along the way. Ask questions & make comments. Maybe some time we can get a beer. Cheers!