As I take a mental inventory of the many great experiences with which I have been blessed, it occurs to me immediately that those are offset by great experiences’ ugly sister: bad experiences. They appear to complement each other nicely by number in a yin/yang sort of way. I for one welcome the notion of a balanced universe; it keeps me from being a perpetual bottom-dweller of spirit, and prevents me from becoming easily overwhelmed by the sight and fragrance of…pretty flowers.

Chuck Studley is the real name of a real guy, a great friend of mine from our days as cadre at the U.S. Army’s Combat Dive Academy. I knew Chuckles and I would get along swimmingly (no pun intended) within the first week that he was assigned to the Dive Academy in Key West from the 7th Green Berets.

That first week we found ourselves flying in a Navy H-53 helicopter over Fleming Key, where some academy corollaries were located. The flight was for orientation to Shark Drop Zone (water), where we parachuted for proficiency training. My eye caught the very prominent Calda Channel that snaked its way around the northern tip of Fleming. It was an impressive sight, the shallow green water powerfully accented by the dark green of the Calda.

A USMC version of the H-53 helo we used in Key West for airborne operations (courtesy Wikipedia Commons).

Wanting to impress the new guy with my geospatial prowess, I jumped up and indicated strongly out the open door of the helo, pointing down and out at the channel, shouting, “Chuck…this…this is Calda Channel!” Chuck regarded the scene but only sat there, directing a blank stare full of blinks my way. He then arched his arms up and around, indicating our surroundings, answering finally, “George…this…this is called a helicopter!”

Calda Channel snakes over the north end of Fleming Key where the U.S. Army Combat Dive Academy is located (courtesy Google Maps).

Chuck was (far and away) the greatest diversion of all for me on Key West. It was always the simple things, insignificant in universal scope and short-lived, that were very impactful for me. I’m put in mind of driving the main street on approach to making my final turn to my quarters when I became aware of a car intentionally keeping speed with me to my left.

Fearing road rage, I hesitated, but finally looked, to find Chuck’s Cheshire grin through the open passenger window of his car.

“Stop and get a beer?!” he called out.

Now that’s something I just never did with anyone let alone when the sun was still up, but I associated Chuck with all things badass and cool, so this would be a great thing as long as furniture wasn’t getting smashed and dudes weren’t flying head-first through plate glass.