Boys’ Night Out

I spent Saturday night camping out with my son (and 200 other dads & lads) on the U.S.S. Massachusetts.

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What’s not to like about running free through an enourmous indoor-outdoor playground/maze, bristling with guns of all sizes? We took a knot-tying class, did Q & A with WWII vets, listened to a storyteller, and watched the classic 1964 Warner Brothers film, The Incredible Mr. Limpet.

Yes, the 16-inch guns were memorable. But what stuck with me was the movie. The Incredible Mr. Limpet stars Don Knotts as the sad loser whose dreams come true when he magically turns into a fish and helps the US Navy win World War II. I loved this movie as a child. Seeing it again, I was surprised by a certain plot element that must have been lost on my pre-adolescent mind. Limpet’s wife Bessie is clearly attracted to another man—Limpet’s best friend George. Bessie and George would much rather be out dancing together than dealing with the boring Limpet. Then, when Limpet turns into a fish, he meets the beautiful Ladyfish, who wants to go with him to the spawning grounds. Limpet resists until he has a chance to talk it over with his wife and to get her blessing. Limpet and Bessie agree that a union between a woman and a fish is not practical, and they run off happily with their more compatible mates.

Is it a child’s primer on divorce? Or is it a metaphor for another kind of identity crisis? In any case, it is beautifully nuanced—not at all the heavy-handed style you might see in a modern movie.

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