March 17, 2004

Lady Lex, Part 3: Blue Ghost Stories

I know I promised this yesterday. Oh well, so much for using an artificial deadline to motivate my writing. (If you missed the first two posts, here they are: part 1, part 2).

We reported to the Main Hangar Deck at 1700 hours for announcements. The Scouts, as their mandatory service project, had earlier arranged several hundred folding chairs before a raised stage. Unfortunately 7-to-11-year-old kids don't think about putting any space between chairs when lining them up. Sardines in a can would have more elbow room than we did. For those who did not read their Plan of the Day earlier, the Live Aboard program counselors summarized the rest of the evening's schedule and introduced the volunteers who would be leading tours throughout the ship later. After supper, we saw the IMAX movie Straight Up. I saw this movie last summer with my older son when we went to the Aviation Challenge Pilot/Co-pilot weekend program in Huntsville, Alabama. If you haven't seen this movie, you should check it out. I gained a much greater appreciation for the hazards
faced by Coast Guard rescue swimmers and high-tension electric power line maintainence workers. After the movie, we reported back to the Main Hangar Deck for evening colors. A LARGE United States flag (think Patton) hung from the ceiling behind the stage. Different-aged scouts from the various packs and troops presented the flags from each branch of the armed services, including the Coast Guard. We then watched a patriotic slideshow, which included Johnny Cash's Ragged Old Flag and some country version of God Bless the USA.

Now, you have to know me to really appreciate just how deep my loathing for country music runs. Being a multiple-generation native Texan, that makes me a bit of an anomaly. And if you need to know anything else about me, as a libertarian, I am normally pretty skeptical about how patriotism can be manipulated by politicians to gain and consolidate power. So believe me when I say that this show of patriotism put an authentic lump in my throat, against all odds. I thought of the men and women in our armed forces who are in daily danger trying to subdue and reform the barbarians hammering at our gates. In many ways the ceremony summoned emotions similar to my post-9-11 feelings: what would normally seem corny or a little hokey was instead just honest pride and gratitude that I was blessed to have been born here.

After the ceremony, we adjourned to roam the ship. Descending into the engineering section, we heard the first of many ghost stories of the night. Seems the volunteers have seen a few different ghosts (the same ones again and again). They even have a "ghost cam" installed in the ship so that Internet viewers can try to sight them. I didn't see anything (nor did I expect to). But based on my experiences later in the evening, I am sure that the volunteers really have seen ghosts -- or at least hallucinations resulting from suggestability, lack of sleep, and high doses of refined sugar ;-)

After exploring for an hour or so, I got my boys settled in front of Pirates of the Caribbean on a large-screen TV. We then went to the fo'c's'le, a large spookily resonant space for some ghost stories. After scaring the bejeebers out of the kids, we then turned in for the night.

As a footnote, I stood watch as a volunteer fire watchman until 0300 hours, and had an interesting adventure. But I can't divulge the details. Maybe some other time.

After Reveille at 0630, we got ready for breakfast, packed up, and had a closing ceremony. I then made the 8-hour drive back to Plano on 3-and-a-half hours of sleep. Fun.

If you live in Texas and have kids in an organized group, you should definitely look into the Live Aboard program on the Lexington. I have also heard that there are similar programs in other parts of the country on other decommissioned Navy ships. Seek out these opportunities, as they present a truly unique way to teach your kids some history and to have a really memorable experience together.

Posted by JohnL at March 17, 2004 08:28 PM
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