Yes, I’m dredging the bottom of the barrel, here. The twins have managed to eat half of my brain over the summer and I’m still trying to find the other half quivering in terror under furniture somewhere. Thinking is HARD right now.
Remembering fun things is easy, though.
A few weeks ago I regaled you with the tale of the Mysterious Moving F-16 on USAFA grounds.
Most Spirit Missions weren’t quite so dramatic. Many involved hiking up Spirit Hill or another steep foothill and laying out sheets to spell out some motto or something. But a few were truly creative. Even the officers got in on it from time to time.
At the time of the late 1980’s and 1990’s, the various military academies of the United States had “exchange programs.” In my father’s department (mathematics) there was a professor on loan from the Army. The week of the Army-Air Force game, my dad and all the Air Force officers carefully disassembled the Army prof’s office and reassembled it (in near exact dimensions – you are dealing with math wonks, here) in the men’s room.
Cadets were also a part of the exchange program. One year, four Navy cadets spent a year at the USAFA. They enjoyed all the fun involved in college rivalries and being the oddball (really obvious when everyone wears a uniform and yours is different).
When they were scheduled to return to Annapolis, they returned the favor at WTF-do-you-mean-it’s-2am? just before leaving the Air Force Academy forever by breaking into the Stadium Press Box, slapping the soundtrack from Top Gun into the sound system, set it for continuous play, cranked the speakers all the way up and locked the door so that the only way in to shut off the noise was through the roof entrance.
The Foreign Exchange Program one year was an interesting treat. A couple of French cadets the night they were leaving took a detour to the tallest flag pole on base. Upon reaching it they ran down the American flag, ran up the French flag, cut the line and ran like hell for Denver and their plane. Hilariously, it took the AFA a week to get the materials to fix the line and take down the French flag (it’s a really tall pole and a pain in the ass to fix when someone cuts the line).
As I’ve said before, the Spirit Missions I hear about these days are kinda lame. To be fair, I’m sure I don’t hear about most of them anymore, but when I spy a few senior cadets in places like Lowe’s or WalMart (they’re obvious, even in civilian clothing) checking out spray paint and PVC, all I can think is “Really, guys? You’re gonna stake out sheets on the mountain/soccer field? Again?”
And I understand why Spirit Missions have been toned down in the last 20 years, but it’s depressing. We need to stop taking every damn thing so seriously and be willing to take a joke every once in a while for what it is.
What does any of this have to do with writing, Katty?
Well, how much more interesting is a character/person when he has a fun story to launch into at cocktail parties? Do you envy that guy for having the guts to push a goddamned F-16 into the middle of a courtyard at 3 am with the rest of his squadron when he was young and dumb and still had good knees?
I know I do. That’s probably why I put one messed up but funny backstory like that in every major character I write (at least the ones I like). You may not ever see that story, but I know it’s there, and every once in a while I can envision that character giving me a quirky grin – “Thanks for the memory, Katty.”