Welcome to another installment of “Things You Should Do Before A Wild Saturday Night Consists Of Cruising the Aisles at Walgreen’s for Prune Juice and Denture Adhesive”!
After ten years of traveling with my family for summer vacation to the coast of Alabama (yes, they have a coast - and it has nothing to do with Nick Saban), we were finally able to catch a scheduled practice of the world-famous U.S. Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Team at nearby Pensacola Naval Air Station. I’ve had a fascination with the Blue Angels ever since I first heard the stunning roar of their F/A-18 Hornets as they “buzzed” the Alabama beaches on their way back to the station while I was sunbathing in a pair of previously unsoiled board shorts.
The Blue Angels’ website cautions that hydration is essential for attendees of their practices because there is no shade for the audience, which is seated on metal bleachers - next to a gigantic concrete military runway - in Florida - in late June. In other words, we would basically be viewing the practice from the bowels of an active volcano, only with less of a breeze.
Since my father-in-law insisted that we get up shortly after I went to bed in order to get a good seat, we were first in line at the airfield. Beside the entrance stood a massive sign that read, “Sit Down. Hold Tight. And Experience the Sound of Freedom.” Couldn’t they make the sound of freedom later in the day? The only sounds I make in the morning... Oh, never mind.
An elderly lieutenant colonel retired from the Marine Corps provided some of the narration for the show. He stood out on the boiling pavement in front of the stands and spoke with such excitement and vitality that we wouldn’t have been surprised if he broke out with a few advanced tumbling passes. In contrast, we sat slumped over in the bleachers, sweating from every inch of our bodies, including our eyeballs, and offering larger audience members our firstborn children if they would stand up to provide some shade.
Speaking of children, the heat-resistant lieutenant colonel reminded us that when the show was over, we should pick up all of our trash and random belongings, including kids. He announced that any child left behind would be sent home with a puppy and a large energy drink. He also reminded us that there was a concession stand selling Gatorade, water, and sandwiches from Chick-fil-A (a proud supporter of the U.S. Military and the official fast food of Heaven.) Unfortunately, when I left my seat to purchase some expensive beverages for my family to pour on themselves, the line looked like the checkout at Walmart when they’re having a big sale on pork rinds. The line moved quickly, though, and I made it back to my seat just in time for the start of the show - and to see my middle daughter spontaneously combust.
The practice itself was truly awe-inspiring. It began with a test run of “Fat Albert,” a massive C-130 that carries supplies for the Blue Angels and has withstood brutal body shaming over the years. We then saw the Angels perform several amazing stunts that seemed to defy physics, aerodynamics, quantum mechanics, and other courses I avoided in college by majoring in English. For a minute there, I was so caught up in the thrill of the performance that I didn’t notice the heat searing me to my bench like a suicidal earthworm on a hot driveway.
After the last of the Blue Angels had landed and taxied past the stands to the wild applause of the audience, we oozed out of the bleachers and made our way to the neighboring National Naval Aviation Museum. Inside the comfort of the climate-controlled museum, surrounded by majestic artifacts of America’s past, I felt a strong appreciation for the U.S. Military and their protection of our freedoms and way of life.
I couldn’t help pausing for a moment, closing my eyes, and whispering, “God Bless the U.S.A. - and reliable, high-quality air conditioning.”
Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. Contact Graves at email@example.com.