“the morning we found out we were federal law enforcement officials we were trained that afternoon on cleaning our 45 automatics. I graduated Coast Guard boot camp with two medals above my left breast pocket: one for qualifying on the M-16 rifle – the other for coming close to the target with a 45 caliber automatic pistol – a huge handful of iron worn in a holster whose very large bullets were only good for tearing big holes right in front of you.
my next encounter with the 45 was aboard the Coast Guard cutter Acushnet loading a smallboat for a boarding party somewhere off the Yucatan peninsula. we were stopping a shrimp boat sitting low in the water way outside the shallows that are good for netting shrimp.
our homeport was Gulfport Mississippi and most of the guys were from the neighborhood or Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, Alabama or Florida. the few of us from southwest Ohio were all deck hands that stood watch and steered the boat.
there’s not much to do floating around the Carribbean but smoke, play cards, shoot dice and tell stories. it was the day of the boom box and we all had music in common. we had to listen to each others stuff from cassette tapes – and we’d talk about what we listened to when we were kids – on 8-tracks and record albums.
some of us could go back to stacks of 45s dropping on a turntable from an enlarged spindle – big holes in little black plastic records that had a huge cultural impact on our times. I remembered the Beatle records and the green apple on their label – I remembered the yellow label of Volt Records on one of my favorites – Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.”
I remembered how guys with such different cassettes could go back to the same 45s.
When I see photographs of those times I’m struck by the sidearm of the federal law enforcement official in Birmingham and Kent State and by the big holes in little records. These images are iconic for me as the force of government and the lure of culture. My belief in Gandhi’s assertion that the means are the ends is reaffirmed and its good to share life with a melody and a beat.”
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