Thursday, February 21, 2013

It Was A Very Good Year

    Whenever I sing this Sinatra standard at karaoke events, I recall my “stages” in a similar manner.

    When I was 17, I learned that I was not quite ready for college even though the H.S. guidance counselor said I was college material. Shortly after returning to non-scholastic life I turned 18 and learned that as a draft-eligible young man, no company was interested in hiring me even for the most menial position. So, in order to avoid being drafted into the Army, I enlisted in the Navy.

    That, after boot camp and electronics school, put me aboard a brand new ship in the Charlestown Naval Shipyard in Boston, Massachusetts. That ship, the USS Leahy (DLG-16), was being fitted out and readied for sea to join the fleet. The Leahy was my home for three years.

    That billet in Boston gave me ample time to thoroughly explore the city (and fall in love with it) and educated me about things I had no prior knowledge of. Like the Hatch Memorial shell (a gift from Maria, the sister of Edward A. Hatch, to the city of Boston in memory of her brother) where Arthur Fiedler and his Boston Pops played every Fourth of July.  The perimeter of the stagefront is emblazoned in bronze with the names of many of the world’s greatest composers some whose names I hadn’t heard of until hearing their music years later.

    The Hatch shell is nestled comfortably between Storrow drive and the Charles River basin on a piece of land called “The Esplanade”. I didn’t know then that an esplanade is simply a promenade or public walkway situated near water.

    One afternoon while enjoying a stroll on the Esplanade, I saw a young woman in a sailboat having some obvious difficulty negotiating her small craft. To the rescue I dashed to save this damsel in distress on the deep. Well actually, she was just a young girl bearing a bit of badness on the basin but as a suave, daring (I thought) young sailor I felt compelled to save her from whatever plight a grounded sail boater might have suffered with the wind luffing her sail and pinning her to the shore line.

    Discovery! I didn’t know the first thing about sailing! I (we) waited patiently until another sailor (of the civilian persuasion) came along and with his powered boat pulled us (I was her passenger by then) to her mooring. Failure though I was as a “sailing” sailor, her father expressed his gratitude for my efforts and good intentions by inviting me aboard his mini-yacht for a cruise up river to his boat club.

    In the Sinatra song, It Was A Very Good Year, the phrase, “When I was 35, it was a very good year for blue-blooded girls”, reminds me very much of that incident. I wasn’t 35 then. I wasn’t even 21. But it was a very good year.

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