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I wanted to spice up my stories for the logs but couldn't come up with anything. "Last night Segura and I went to a movie. The movie was pretty good. It had that guy from Quantum Leap in it and he was a magician. There wasn't anybody in the movie theater until about halfway through these girls came in and sat right in front of us. There was nobody else in there and they sat right in front of us. They were local girls who snuck in a bottle of vodka. They smoked in there too. Segura talked to them for a little bit, and after the movie we all stood outside and smoked. I should've got the number of the one girl. She had black spiked hair and wore a lot of bracelets. But I didn't ask for her number. I don't know why I didn't. Damn. Well, maybe I'll run into her next week."

Other guys wrote things like mine. No luck with the ladies. "There's this girl at the Exchange. Her name is Siobhan, but it's pronounced 'Chiffon.' She's so hot. We talked the other day, but I couldn't ask for her number. What the hell was I going to do? I can't take her to the movie theater on base and I don't have a car. She might be a Navy wife who works here. I couldn't ask, but I wanted to so bad."

Mark wouldn't respond to them all. He probably got tired of trying to write out something that was pretty hard to explain.

A lot of the stories were about people's hometowns. The unofficial logs were full of stories of getting drunk and in fights, kegs and bonfires, and the luck of sitting on the same tailgate as the girl you liked -- or about how you were afraid your girlfriend was cheating on you back home.

One kid, Busciglio, heard that his girlfriend back home had made out with a guy. Busciglio didn't stick around over Christmas break. He used what little leave he had accumulated and probably went into debt to go back to Virginia to talk to his girl.

When I was in boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois, Chicago was going through the worst heat wave in the last half-century. When I got to Connecticut, the East Coast was going through the worst winter it'd seen in the last half-century. I went from jogging on hot asphalt while old people in Chicago died from the heat to shoveling snow off frozen roads while old people in New London died from the cold.

On one duty day I'd finished up my watch and was sitting around the TV lounge, when the duty officer came in and rounded a bunch of us up to stop the flooding in a basement of the main sub school building. Pipes in the basement were freezing and bursting, and me and about a dozen other guys had to go up and push the water out the door. Right when we'd get all the water out the door or into a drain, another pipe would burst and shoot icy water through the room. It was a real flood, up to our ankles in water cold enough to freeze if it stopped moving.

Up to that point I'd considered staying on the East Coast and joining up with a sub that would be deployed to European countries and home-based in Connecticut. I hadn't been doing too well in school. I treated it pretty much the way I had high school, just doing enough to get by. The better you did in school, the higher priority you got when you chose a sub. Everyone wanted a San Diego boat or a Hawaii boat.

Man, right then, with frigid water soaking my socks and boots and my wet hands frozen around a broom handle, I decided to bust my ass in school so I could get to San Diego. Heat waves in Chicago, the "Blizzard of '96" in Connecticut; to hell with that shit.

When I got back to the barracks, I got every guy's classroom notes who had gone through the same schools as I had and I studied them. I wasn't a total lump though; I still went out and had fun. One night, when the roads were too icy for buses and cabs to get into the base, me and some friends bundled up in every piece of clothing we had. We wrapped towels around our heads and put two pairs of gloves on and three pairs of socks and every bit of long underwear and all our sweaters and jackets on, and we ran almost a mile to the other side of the base where the movie theater was playing Hackers, and for our long frozen jog we were rewarded with Angelina Jolie's plump lips, her sassy haircut, and bad attitude.

Even with the gloves and long underwear and sweaters and jogging, my hands were still frozen stiff when we ran back to the barracks after the movie. The other guys sat in the TV lounge and talked about Angelina's body and face and compared it to Gwen Stefani's, when No Doubt's video "Just a Girl" came on, and I went to my room and spread out my notes.

At the end of navigation electronics school I was fourth in my class and there were two openings for subs in San Diego, the USS La Jolla and the USS Salt Lake City. The guy who graduated top of the class was married and his wife was in Virginia, so he took a boat home-ported in Virginia Beach. Second in the class was a black kid from Tennessee who wanted nothing but to be stationed in Pearl Harbor, and he took a boat in Hawaii. There was a California kid who was third in the class. He was from Sacramento, and he took the USS La Jolla and I snatched up the USS Salt Lake City. Those were the last two openings in San Diego, and I couldn't have been more relieved. The guy behind me in the rankings was from Long Beach, and when I took the San Diego boat he almost broke down crying.

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