Monday, July 14, 2008


Why does doing damage to property figure so largely in the development of the American male? Do French kids fuck shit up for shits and giggles? Are the Greek teenage boys defacing their surroundings on hot summer nights?

Running along the Hudson River from West Point's North Dock to South Dock winds a well worn path through the woods named Flirtation Walk by ancient Cadets for obvious reasons. By 1984, however, Cadets and their significant others were thin on the ground at night on Flirtation Walk. The advent of the automobile, and the sensibilities of the sexual revolution had taken their respective tolls on it, and after dark it was largely deserted, which made it an attractive destination for our little gang.

Also by 1984, our little gang had ceased to invite chase from the Military Police; we pretty much just wanted to be left alone to drink, get high, and score with the ladies if at all possible. Sometimes, however, circumstances demand drastic measures, and one night in the spring of 1984, such measures became necessary.

A small group had assembled at the little lighthouse at the western point in the curve of the river that gives West Point it's name. The lighthouse was maybe fifty feet high, at the top of which was a wrought iron catwalk that ran the perimeter, inside of which was the bright green light that flashed for the benefit of passing boats. We'd always climb the little rungs jutting out of the cylindrical base up to the top; climbing things was what we did.

This particular night, however, we weren't interested in the climb. A number of us were under the influence of psychedelic drugs; we just wanted to chill out, listen to the water lapping on the rocks, and otherwise hallucinate and giggle. The problem was, our ability to do so was being seriously hampered by The Thing That Goes Bing.

The Thing That Goes Bing was a small device the size and shape of a beer keg located at the base of the lighthouse facing the river. Every minute or so, it emitted a fairly loud 'bing'. I suppose the sound did the job of the flashing light when the weather went foul. Well, as important of a job as that was, The Thing That Goes Bing was driving us batty. For some unknown reason, leaving for a more peaceful locale never came up as an option.

Suddenly, through the trees appeared two or three figures that turned out to be a few senior members of the notorious baby eating Skateboard Gang, friends of ours as it were.

In due course, we related our dilemma to the new arrivals. We figured that since they weren't tripping, they would come up with a reasonable solution to our problem.

And so they did.

That night, The Thing That Goes Bing became The Thing That Used To Go Bing.

As I recall, it took three or four of us, with our backs to the tower and our feet pressed against the offending device to dislodge it from it's well secured, bolted down presence on the shore, and urge it on its way into the Hudson.

That incident was the most shameful act of irresponsible behaviour that I was a party to. I can't recall who the actual dislodgers of The Thing That Goes Bing were, and I have purposefully kept any names out of this post, but as I was certainly the weakest physically of the assembled miscreants, I'm fairly positive I was simply an onlooker during the task, but I was absolutely encouraging.

Today there is no 'bing' going thing. They never replaced it, and since that time have torn down the lighthouse and in it's place resides a sinister looking metal box about three foot square with a flashing light seriously secured to the rock it sits upon.

Wisely, it makes no sound.


Tony Alva said...

Ah, good thing we're using code names on this blog! I remember that night well.

I was one of the dislodgers I'll freely admit (along with the guy who lived out on Rt. 292, and the one who played drums well), but you aren't aware or have forgotten some of the back story related to the "Thing That Goes Bing (TTGB)” that reveals a far less malicious intent.

The truth is that there was a massive post wide beef with TTGB amongst just about everybody who lived points north of its place on the river, mainly that it was loud as shit and impeded slumber for those who had even the slightest trouble drifting off. Since there was nothing really between it and all of Lee Area, those who lived there complained the most. I recall my folks mentioning the Supe/Post Commander/Random VIP Guy griping about being inundated with complaints regarding TTGB after it came on line, including cadets who suffered from its annoyance. Perhaps you Lusk Area folks were buffered from it enough to be unaffected, but I can attest first hand to being annoyed by it when we lived in the house next door to the Catholic Chapel. From the little bit else I know about it, there were repeated legitimate efforts put forth to have the volume at least turned down that went nowhere with whatever agency governed the thing.

So in all actuality, we were noble, selfless, and Robinhood like in carrying out the will of the people by pushing that dastardly thing into the water and returning a quiet peace to our little section of the Hudson River Valley. I even remember saying to The One Who Played Drums Well as the TTGB began to break free of its mooring that we’d be hero’s to all if anybody ever found out we did this.

“That incident was the most shameful act of irresponsible behavior that I was a party to”

You can now relieve yourself of the guilt you’ve been carrying around all these years…

Jackson said...

With a heaving sigh of great relief, I thank you from the depths of my formerly tortured soul.