Leo Kottke Weighs in On Life, Literature and Guitar (Part Four)

Leo Kottke Weighs in On Life, Literature and Guitar (Part Four)

It had nothing to do with the diving, but they all come as an anomaly. It was two things: it was sex and it was war. They just met in that title. I’m sometimes the last guy to know what they are. I loved the idea that in the crudest possible metaphor, it would work. Never has anybody, anywhere talked about what the title means. I wouldn’t claim anything that I just said, but it comes close. That was probably 1968 when I wrote that. The record came out in ’69, that was the Tet Offensive. I had friends that were already dead. Then I had friends that made it through the war that died in a relocation camp in Florida or O.D.’d at Golden Gate Park or things like that. Guys were just shattered by the experience.

You were in the Navy right? What years were you actually in the service? And where were you?

Yeah, I was in the Navy, but I’d been discharged before that war got really hot. It was just starting up when I was discharged.

I was in the Navy for a total of about a year. I left the continental shelf behind. I was on a submarine called the Half Peak. They were all named after fish and they really had to look to find Half Peak. If you look it up, it’s a fish about the size of your thumb, only a lot skinnier. Some kind of weird little thing. It doesn’t bring to mind war-like behavior.

The draft got everybody or you had a way around it. I joined up when I was underage. I just wanted to be underwater. I love the idea of a submarine and I wanted to be on one, so I joined the god-damned Navy. And I found out that I liked the submarine, but I couldn’t stand the Navy. It was just too military. I don’t know what I thought it would be, but of course it was military. And I didn’t fit with that. It’s a hell of a way to get around – it’s really something.

But if you’ve been in the service, you know how it works and in the best of times it’s no more organized than the bad boy down on the street corner. It’s very drifty shit. It’s amazing that it works as well as it does. Up until now, the only place that it’s been discussed much was with people like Tolstoy, who makes the point, war – rather than service – is just chaos. You can have all the plans you want, but once it’s going nobody knows what else can happen.  (CONT)