Yesterday was Valentine's Day, one of the two days -- the other is Christmas -- when Americans make a special point of professing to devote themselves to Love, even though that's a practice that, like so many other worthwhile concepts, they at most other times honor only in the breach. The astonishing financial wealth of the right wing haters as compared to those elsewhere on the political spectrum is evidence enough of that. But for me the next day after those 24 hours of hearts, kisses, and supposedly 24 hours of uninterrupted love-making, is a much more auspicious date. In fact today's date, February 15 is so important that it has even managed to make me once again put something in this often interrupted weblog.
On this same date in 1952, exactly 55 years ago, world and national events colluded in such a way as to fling me out of the warm familiarity of life with my mother, my sister, and my friends and neighbors, out into the larger world that I knew about but had seldom had any occasion to enter, and definitely not for anywhere near as long or as intense a period as the one that now began, and my life would never again be the same.
I was inducted into the U.S. Air Force.
Actually I use February 15 as a benchmark for a lot of things. Right now I'm mainly using it for the weather.
I did my basic training at Sampson AFB, a former naval base that was located on Lake Geneva in the Finger Lakes district of western New York state. Unlike my native D.C., Sampson was cold and windy and snowswept, and things stayed that way through most of the six or eight weeks or however long I was there.
Today I'm hoping that, no matter what the groundhog says (and I don't know what it said), the same won't be true now. Instead, after a warm December, January was hellishly cold, and, in spite of what I had hoped, February so far is following suit, and the firewood that I spent so much time and effort cutting and carting a few weeks ago is going fast.
Mainly, however, I'm tired of being cold most of the time.
I guess the trouble is that by now my blood has thinned a lot, but thankfully -- very thankfully -- unlike so many people, so far I haven't been sick this winter.
I couldn't even say the same for Sampson, when I was much younger and presumably stronger and less susceptible. A lot of the guys there caught bronchitis and other things, but for a long time, in spite of being a Southern boy and out of my geography and all that, I stayed all right, until one night, while I was on guard duty in the ice and cold, I stepped into a hole, and immediately afterward I fell ill with something or other in my chest and had to go on sick call.
Ever afterward I've wondered what that was all about, when it was my feet or legs that should've been injured, but that is still on my long and steadily lengthening list of unyielding mysteries.