You May Fire When You are Ready, Gridley.

In 1898 the flagship of the United States navy gave that command and the world shifted. When we defeated the British the second time we became a soci0-governmental experiment, not till Spain hit bottom did we become a world power.

Once upon a time the Olympia conquered the world, now it floats at a dock in Philadelphia battling rust. I have dusted off my keyboard in an attempt to do the same.

Walking along the decks of the ship I imagine curled mustaches and orders given by officers raised in Rhode Island who sound strangely English. I have no idea if that is how it really was, but then again, knowing how it really was is never the point of retelling history is it?

The steam engine was all painted and shiny. Is that how it was? painted and shined? Perhaps it was.

If you cannot tell, that black mass at the left of the picture is the butt end of a large cannon protruding through the wall. It is here that the ball was interrupted and the Admiral removed the pipe from his mouth, excused himself from the company of the ladies and said, “oh pardon me but I must resume my bombardment of Manila.”

Here is where a crew of scrambling tattooed men rush about saying things like, “Aye aye Cap’n,” and “Aaaarg.”

Here is where the sailors took mess dancing jigs on the table while one leathery overweight salt sits off to one side telling tall tales as he engraves a whales tooth.

And here is where the young man from Princeton who has somehow found himself a naval officer sits lonely and writes lines like, “Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead.”

We don’t really care if that is how it was then any more than any of us care about how it really is now. It is an election year and we are all engaged in telling each other what somebody else thinks or intends without really knowing.

And one day we will write it in history books and place our relics in museums where our youth will visit and fool themselves that they have seen how it was back then.


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