Meaningful Distinction:

Patrick S. Lasswell Look outward for something to accomplish, not inward for something to despise.
pslblog at gmail dot com
Friday, April 08, 2005
What Is More Cool

Yesterday at the office we had a little talk about the potential for a NASCAR track in Portland. (If you are male and in the Navy and let folks know you aren't interested in NASCAR, you are in violation of the "don't tell" policy.) My new unit has a young man on the permanent staff who mentioned the NASCAR driver who is 18 years old. "He gets out of high school and goes straight to driving at NASCAR, what could be more cool than that?"

Today I found something very cool. Attached to my reserve center is a pier that the reserve destroyers used to moor to. For the last ten years a group of retired Navy veterans has been restoring a WWII PT boat there. I met these gentlemen today while talking to them about moving some equipment on the pier so we could set up some of my unit's gear for an upcoming drill. I had a few minutes, and a remarkably spry retired Captain showed me the PT boat's original Packard engines…the only ones of their kind on a restored boat in the world. The Captain then introduced me to the gentlemen who have been working on this project for the last decade.

The PT boat looked in great condition, and I've been around enough boats and ships to know what a taught vessel looks like. Some work still needed to be done, but I could tell that a lot of effort had been made to restore this sixty year old "disposable" craft. Engines don't gleam like that because of good intentions. I've been interested in PT boats since I first got fascinated by WWII, thirty years ago. I know that I've missed some serious promises I made to my ten year old self, but standing on the deck of a real PT boat today fulfilled a big one.

So here are a bunch of old guys, some of them in their eighties, working at the end of a pier to restore a boat. It gets cold out on the end of that pier, and I can feel it in my bones at forty. The thing is that some of these guys sailed on boats like this one as young men, and they helped to change the world. They survived that war, and possibly one or two more, which makes them the carriers of some very important knowledge. Before their days end they are getting out of the house, putting up with the aches of a damp Oregon spring chill, and doing their part to make sure that future generations don't forget the contributions of their fellows or the lessons they learned.

To be able to make that kind of contribution, to have something that important to do, and to still be able to make it to the end of the pier after a very full life is a hell of a lot more cool than being young and supremely gifted at making high-speed left turns. Plus the PT boat has got to be a chick magnet! Well, for chicks who dig Benny Goodman anyhow.

P.S. Am I going to print out this post and give it to the old guys in the hope that someday they might take me for a ride on their boat? You bet your ass I am! Are they still going to make me clean the bilges to earn the ride? You bet your ass they are! All that damp Oregon spring chill has made those old guys mean.
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