Sunday, October 23, 2011

A return to Williamsburg and the Tidewater this weekend: replaying personal history

On Saturday, I revisited  a particular geographical area housing a critical part of my “past”.  After attending the William and Mary GALA (Gay and Lesbian Alumni(ae)) Silver Anniversary Dinner in the Grand Hall of the Wren Building, some William and Mary student staff showed me some of the building’s interior on the first and second floors today.  We were trying to figure out where the Dean of Men’s office must have been located in November 1961, when I was suddenly called in and admitted “latent homosexuality” in the subsequent inquisition, as described in my Nov. 28, 2006 posting.  Of course, everything there has changed radically since then.

The GALA documentary film and Friday reception is described in the Movies blog Oct. 21.  But my driving down from Arlington mid-day Friday to Williamsburg felt like a reverse replay of the cold November day when my parents drove me back from Williamsburg right after the expulsion – like “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”.

But during the day Saturday, I had driven down to the Norfolk Naval Station, to the approximate location where I had taken a submarine tour of the USS Sunfish in 1993, before getting involved in the debate on President Clinton’s first attempt to lift the ban on gays in the military (leading, as we know, to the notorious “don’t ask don’t tell” law, finally repealed officially this year on Sept. 20).


 Now, the tours are apparently handled by a company called Naval Tours e on Hampton Blvd (link) .  According to the site, it’s no longer possible to board ships as I did in 1993 (I toured a submarine, destroyer, and aircraft carrier); no doubt, public access has been tightened up since 9/11 so there is less opportunity for a “newbie” to see what’s really going on and blog about it or even write his congressional representatives in detail about sensitive policy questions, as I was able to do back in 1993 and subsequent years.


As one drives the bridge-tunnel on I-64 from Newport News (driving down from Williamsburg) to Norfolk, one can see lots of battleships and aircraft carriers. But there is no place to stop and take photos. (Curiously, the tunnel was free; I did not need my  Ezpass, which I was fully expecting to get charged a few bucks.)   You can see a lot of civilian ships on the Portsmouth Harbor, with free weekend parking.  I went down to the Dismal Swamp, which I had last visited in 1991; no sign of the fire or hurricane, and a great bike trail;  finally, I wound up in Virginia Beach, with a substantial Naval and Marie Memorial at 25th Street and the Boardwalk (and the same street names from the Monopoly game).

Picture: Portsmout
and Virginia Beach:

Actually, on my way down, I had stopped at the entrance to Fort Eustis (“Useless”) from I-64, ten miles from Williamsburg, where I had been station for 15 months from 1968 until my out in early 1970. Again, it’s hard to get permission to enter the base, but there is a map outside the gate that shows where I lived. 

Such was my personal commemoration of an “official return” to the area that has been so important in my life.


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