The Academy Insider Your Guide to The United States Naval Academy

#013 - The Black N with Ricky Conlin '99 - The Secret Society of Bad Boys of the Naval Academy

October 14, 2019 GRANT VERMEER / RICKY CONLIN '99 Season 1 Episode 13
The Academy Insider Your Guide to The United States Naval Academy
#013 - The Black N with Ricky Conlin '99 - The Secret Society of Bad Boys of the Naval Academy
Show Notes Transcript

My guest is author Ricky Conlin.  He is a proud member of the mighty class of 1999, was an economics major and a member of the sixth company. 

Ricky describes himself as a very mediocre midshipman. He graduated smack dab in the middle of the class militarily and was relatively quiet. He did stand 14 days of collective restrictions. He played varsity football at the Naval Academy. He describes his football career also as mediocre but is a really, really proud member of the Navy Football Brotherhood and has friends from there to this day that he keeps in touch with. 

He graduated, served as an officer and eventually became a novelist. Ricky has had the opportunity to write all about his Naval Academy experience in the first book of his trilogy The Black N.  He has some forthcoming books on the horizon.

Ricky and Grant discuss what a Black N is (The Naval Academy scarlet letter). You get it for getting the maximum disciplinary penalty without getting expelled. Ricky never received a Black N but does hold some sort of unofficial Naval Academy record in that he has lived with five different Black N "winners"... all from separate disciplinary incidents.

Ricky tells some great stories from his Naval Academy experience and makes an announcement about his next book in the trilogy Sex in the Hall.

Ricky is thoughtful, funny and a proud graduate of the academy that lets readers with his fictional novels behind the scenes of the midshipmen life.

His book The Black N is a must-read for those who love stories set at the naval academy with a little edge to the story.  Please order a copy today on Amazon here.  I highly recommend it.

The Black N is described as - Sometimes good guys do bad things: The nineties were a turbulent time for the U.S. Naval Academy. The first half of the decade and several subsequent scandals left a proud institution licking its wounds. By the summer of ’95, the Academy’s response to ornery midshipman behaving badly was to clamp down on discipline. By Halloween of that same year, the Naval Academy’s largest drug scandal in its history had everyone reeling. Enter the “Black Ns.” This exclusive, unsanctioned club is comprised of the Naval Academy’s most prolific bad boys. Midshipman Jim “Mick” McGee is unwittingly about to find out what it takes to become a member. Whether surfing back home with his drug-dealing cousin or embarking on the journey of a lifetime at the Academy, grit keeps him afloat. The worlds of surfing, drugs, and the drudgery of academy life collide in this fictional, though authentic, narrative of a lost era.

You can follow Ricky on twitter at @RickyConlin.

Be sure to review and subscribe to The Academy Insider with Grant Vermeer podcast on Apple Podcasts or where you listen to podcasts.

Follow the Academy Insider on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Ricky recommends the book The Nightingale's Song by Robert Timberg.  It weaves together the lives of Annapolis graduates John McCain, James Webb, Oliver North, Robert McFarlane, and John Poindexter to reveal how the Vietnam War continues to haunt America. 

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Speaker 1:

This is your host GRANT VERMEER Naval Academy class of 2017 and on your Academy insider. It's my goal to be your guide through the Naval Academy experience by sharing my stories and providing you insight information into the life of a midshipman.

Speaker 2:

[inaudible]

Speaker 1:

Academy insider is in no way officially affiliated with the United States Naval Academy. All of the content on Academy insider is my own and does not reflect the views of the United States Naval Academy, the United States Navy, nor the department of defense. Hey everyone, and welcome to the Academy insider podcast. So today you can actually think my mom for this podcast episode because a couple of years ago she read a book called the black end and she really loved it. So she passed it onto me and I found it to be just tremendously hilarious, really fun storytelling. Basically journaling a kid from ocean city, Maryland, who then went to the Academy and then got caught up in a little bit of trouble. So as a crazy idea, just decided to reach out to the author Ricky Conlan, who's a class of 99 graduate from the Naval Academy and just asked if you wanted to be on the podcast to talk about his book and just share stories from the Naval Academy. And he agreed and it's been super fun getting to know him. Ricky is a phenomenal person, a really great storyteller. And so this is going to be a super fun episode as we just share stories from the Naval Academy[inaudible] talk about the black end and then even introduce a new book that he's about to release right now. So make sure to check out this episode. It's super entertaining, really fun, and just honestly really authentic and casual. So I hope you guys enjoy it and let me know what you think. Hey Ricky, thanks so much for coming on the Academy inside of podcast. Really appreciate having you

Speaker 3:

grant. Thanks for having me. Excited to be here.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. All right. But before we get going into today's episode, if you don't mind telling our audience a little bit about you, so a little bit about one your midshipman self, your company when you're at the Academy, your major in a little bit of background about you as a midshipman, but also a little bit of how you grew up and how you ended up at the Naval Academy.

Speaker 3:

Sure. So this is Ricky Conlin graduate and proud member of the mighty class of 1999 and an alumni of the sixth company and very proudly so as well. I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware and I had a few relatives. My grandfather was enlisted in the army and I had an uncle in the Navy but really didn't come from any immediate family in the military. And of course like any child of the 80s I watched top gun

Speaker 1:

and they all born

Speaker 3:

of eighties action movies and just really, really gravitated towards the Navy. And lo and behold, my senior year of high school decided to pursue both the Naval Academy and West point. I got into both. I was actually lucky enough to get primary appointments from two, both of them from then Senator Joe Biden and a went to the Naval Academy. My Naval Academy was what I would say a very mediocre midshipmen. I tried to be formed in anything. I was a chameleon, uh, but you know, kind of graduated smack dab in the middle of the class militarily was relatively quiet. I did stand 14 days of collective restrictions. Uh, so I had been inducted to the club but not nearly. So as, as many of my compadres classmates and roommates. Other than that I played football, varsity football at the Naval Academy. I would even hesitate to say that I was a mediocre football player. They're probably on the bad side of mediocre and, but really, really proud member of the Navy football brotherhood and friends there to this day that I keep in touch with. And of course my company mates in six company, a lot of tight bangs there as well. So, you know, I think academically I was economics. I had to think for a second. And yeah, after that went onto graduate and eventually became a novelist. And got a chance to write all about my Naval Academy experience and my trilogy black N and some forthcoming books on the horizon.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. And then so you joke about being a mediocre midshipman. What did mediocre midshipman leads you to for service selection? What happened once you graduated?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, so when I graduated I ended up going into the supply Corps and was really privileged to get the opportunity to work within the Naval reactors program, which is the nuclear propulsion headquarters of the Navy. I got in there directly out of supply Corps school and spent the bulk of my eight years working within that program, largely on the business side of things. So I look at my civilian career since I've gotten out. A lot of that was built on the foundations of what I learned doing my Navy job and you know, just to be a part of the Naval reactors program and just the history with that more rec over and all the great leaders have come through there. It was just a, it was an honor every day to work there and I met my wife there so I have a lot of fondness and a lot of good memories of my time at Naval reactors.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. And was supply something that you always wanted to do or was that something that happened because of a health issue or was that something you tried to get in, make happen? What's the backstory on that?

Speaker 3:

No, I, I was originally going to be a pilot. Uh, I got medically disqualified and became part of the supply Corps school. That was not something that I had initially gone into the Naval Academy. I think I wanted to be Maverick and fly top gun. I'm so excited about equal, I will be the, I can't even imagine how many screens and Annapolis are going to have to around the sequel of topic. But no, I ended up finding my way into the supply Corps. I think what led me there was just thinking about, you know, wanting to get some relevant business experience. And it turned out to live up to everything that I wanted it to and I met some really great people in the supply Corps for sure.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. And so again, he joke about being a mediocre midshipman and playing football, but how was your overall Naval Academy experience just in general? Did you appreciate it? Kind of. What was your, your feeling towards it? Four years in Annapolis?

Speaker 3:

Well, I'm glad you're interviewing me now

Speaker 4:

as compared to 20 few years, probably would have gotten there a lot different answer from a 21 year old Ricky condoms. But I have

Speaker 3:

incredibly fond memories of the Naval Academy. I think the further that I get away from it, the more it actually becomes part of my identity. I think about particularly the people that I went to school with, the Naval Academy is a place as a phenomenal place. But I think what, what really brings me back there and attaches my heart there is the people that I went to school with and seeing what so many of them have gone on to do in their own lives. It was just a really inspiring time. And it's, it's one that I grow to appreciate each year goes by. So I have just the utmost appreciation for my experience there that said, you know, I, I think many image shipment has heard the, the acronym I H T F P

Speaker 4:

um, as, uh, keeping a a rated G P G podcast I'll have, I hate this fun place type, truly sound tired ice. But that was, that was certainly embracing the suck of

Speaker 3:

being a midshipman in the moment was also a part of it. And a lot of those experiences I've had the, the fun part of, of actually getting to rewrite them into a lot of my literary work.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. Which, which we absolutely, we'll get to in just a sec. But before then you kind of mentioned that some of the great things about the Naval Academy were some of the relationships that you built with people. Are you still able to maintain those friendships and connections and how do you do that? How do you maintain close bonds with your classmates?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I mean I think it's a lot easier nowadays than it was preexistence of social media, which dates me. It makes me feel old. But you know, I, I just can remember the day that we graduated and it was kind of often the nebulous, most of us didn't even have cell phones. I didn't have a cell phone when I graduated. Yeah. So it was really difficult to keep in touch and uh, you know, I think you get stationed with friends and of course Naval Academy homecomings and Army-Navy games lead alum together. So a lot of the early days it was really those functions that kept us together. Nowadays I think with social media and, uh, just having a, a lot more ability to stay connected, that definitely helps us stay connected. It's actually become really cool. I feel, uh, old admitting to this, but you know, I have these little text conversations with various clusters of like old Naval Academy roommates and football teammates and uh, it's crazy just to like get a random thread of a conversation on a random Tuesday, that sort of thing make staying connected a lot easier, which is great.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. Great. So with all that, now you talk about being a novelist. You talked about being a, I think what a lot of people want to hear is if you have any great stories about the Naval Academy, do you have any stories that stand out from your time that you're just like, man, these are fun to tell. These are funny. Like, it kind of brings me back and makes me laugh a little bit, whether it's just from anything or specifically like an army, Navy week and air force week, anything like that. Uh, but if you have any great stories want to share and we'd love to hear them.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, sure. I, I love telling stories. I think that's why I got into the business of writing. I think that, uh, having so many unique and oftentimes humorous stories about the Naval Academy is one of the best things about going there. I of course have several, you mentioned air force week and army Navy week. You know, to me most of my best stories kind of gravitate around there. Uh, you know, the aspect of the plebes versus the upper class or the plebes versus that a hole from the air force Academy, that Mowgli sitting there and formation three months, you know, those, those are really fun memories. And I think just the, uh, the epicenter is really in the, the, the plebes call it retribution to the, the more tool ish upper class. You're in the, in the company and you know, it, it seems like a war between the upperclassmen and the pleads, but it really becomes the plebes versus a handful of people. And I, I can remember even as an upperclassmen, it would be very entertaining seeing people get, get their medicine. And there's several stories that I have around that. Some of them will make their way into the book. You know, my personal favorite of plea summer or a plead army Navy week pranks was, there was a really, really problematic second class that was just torturing my room my plebe year. And, uh, I remember I was relaying this story, it tables to the captain then captain of the football team, Andy drew Thompson. And uh, he had told me that there were these things called stink Berry bushes out towards Shovan, Vinay or Nimitz. And I had smelled the smell and never knew where it emanated, but he's like, yeah, the, it's, there's these bushes, they have these berries now, baby's diaper.

Speaker 1:

And they are absolutely still there who like, they're still there,

Speaker 3:

so please take notes. There's some retribution. I'm not going to say that. Don't, don't ever hold me liable to this, but there are still those berries. They smell like a baby's diaper. And when you mash them up in a coffee can they make a really stinky but clear drying paste and a, we smashed that up and put with butter knives, spread it all over the horizontal surfaces of this said second classes room. And, uh, needless to say he had a smelly, returned to his room and never got caught for that one. I guess I'm caught now for second class Burkhart. I got you. You got me. But that was a memory of mine that definitely sticks and that certainly others. I guess the only other one that I'll mention and it's, it's, I think I have to imagine other alum of my time would remember this, but one of my proudest, most infamous moments in the Naval Academy was my youngster year. And

Speaker 4:

can I restart that? I had a, I had my dad calling me ambitions of a ride. We can actually, I wouldn't need Tupac bad actually. We keep scrolling man. Keep rolling. This is informal for podcasts. I am the fuck man. I'm a very ambitious writer, not a writer

Speaker 3:

breaths. So in King hall, my youngster year, Josh powers was a youngster. He was a class of 2000 there was, I believe a bucket of water or a pitcher of water dumped on in second class. Dr doom, Renee, Julian's head. He picked up a pie through it and it incited a King hall wide food fight and we were, the entire brigade was ejected out of County hall and it was just one of the most incredible things. I wish that cell phones had been around because it was just like such an Epic thing to see. And it just like unfolded like a wave each wing. And I felt really bad because it was just, you can imagine just the worst mess in the world. But I don't think I can ever remember inclusive of seeing cars get blown up. I don't think I can ever remember an army Navy week memory more than than that moment.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. And so you're absolutely correct. And I think a lot of our favorite stories when we look back on our time at the Academy do come from plebe year. And in your first book, the black end, you kind of tell the story of guy Mick, who's going through his plebe year. Are any of those stories related to your life? Can you tell us a little bit, one, a little bit about the book and then to give a little insight if any of those stories kind of have any truth or relation to your, your personal life?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, sure. So the black end, as you said, follows in the first novel, the protagonist Jim, Mick McGee who's a plea but the Naval Academy class of 99 and he through a variety of circumstances gets intertwined into a drug deal and that eventually plays out through the course of the novel and tangentially involves him getting a black end at the end. Um, I of course did not deal drugs.

Speaker 4:

The Naval Academy,

Speaker 3:

for those that have not read the book or disclaimer, I have no affiliation with that whatsoever, but a drug scandal did happen my plebe year during the Naval Academy. And I think in general, just having my experiences as a plead, I was able to fuse a lot of that real story experience into that plot line. And I would say just in general, my writing comes from an absolute place of experience. Even right down to there's, there's a cross country trip in the novel, the first novel black end where the protagonist goes across the country in a very amount of time and a truck. I did that with a friend on very minimal sleep, probably quite dangerously to get the experience of writing a lot of those chapters. So while again the, the primary plot line doesn't necessarily associate it with that. A lot of my Naval Academy experiences are absolutely fused in there. And then of course there's the concept itself of the black end, those of the audience that don't know about that, it's really the, the Naval Academy Scarlet letter, you get it for getting maximum penalty, uh, at the Naval Academy, which usually almost always includes 60 plus days restriction and like a hundred hours of marketing for, I myself was lucky enough to never get busted for a black end, but I do hold some sort of unofficial Naval Academy record and that I have lived with five different black end winners all from separate disciplinary incidents. Just felt like my time cademy somebody was taping off and heading to a restriction muster. So I, you know, the, the, the broader idea for the novel spawn out of the black N and uh, the idea was when I was at the Naval Academy, there was always a legend that somebody down the line had received three black ends in their time. It's really hard to do because you got to get them and earn them and then not get kicked out. I never knew anybody, we never had a name or anything that associated with it. So I came up with the idea, I'm going to write a novel about this fictional character Nicky will be, that's going to fictionally get three black ends and each book will coincide with his award and punishment for the black end of each one over his time in the four years at the Naval Academy. So that's really where the inspiration of the novel came from.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. And that's really cool. And I know, I know you're not, you didn't get get black end, but you had been on restriction. So I want to dive a little bit deeper into that topic and just talk a little bit about restriction the experience. Then the kind of the culture of restriction and restrict ease at the Naval Academy. If you don't mind just kinda just go in and talk a little bit about that experience.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, it's, it's one of the more unique experiences of the Naval Academy. In many ways it feels like the, you know, Santa clauses, Island of misfit toys, um, you know, it's one of the new places at the Naval Academy where, you know, rank company looks high race, gender, August thrown out of the window because you're all just stuck in the same poop pile together. And that is the life of a restrict the, and I, you know, just to kind of give a, again, the audience part of the experience, you know, you have to do all of your normal Naval Academy day jobs, but they're an under no circumstance are you allowed to leave your way. You're basically grounded for that time and like, you know, anywhere from three to 47 times a day, you can get inspected and have to go to formation and they always make it at, you know, the ass crack of Dawn on the front end. And on the back end, I think the last muster would sometimes wrap up at like 11 o'clock at nights you were like perpetually under slept perpetually rushing to formation, constantly trying to find ways to sneak out of your room and all of it's of course creates a great bond amongst its members. And you know, again, I, I hated being on restriction and my goodness, the a hundred yard stare of someone that has spent 60 days plus on restriction is something else and I've observed it many times, but you know, for that grit and experience, just the claim of being able to say that you've got to be a part of it. I was really glad just to kind of see that aspect of the Naval Academy as sickening and the statistic is that sound?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I love the word you use. It's like you're grounded, right? Like that. That's literally, it is like, it's like you're back home, you're grounded. Mom and dad are watching you. You're not allowed to go anywhere. Like if you thought your life already was kind of crummy, just based on being at the Naval Academy, just like multiply that by 10 and like, so when we talk about restriction, we use the term days because you have a certain number of days that you must complete on restriction. But as Ricky was saying, you get inspected a lot and sometimes if one you don't make it to a formation or too like for whatever reason you fail a uniform inspection or whatever it is. A lot of times they just won't let those days count. You're like if you don't successfully complete the day then it's like the day never happened. You can have another day of restriction. So even though it's 60 days restriction, it could potentially be a lot more days depending on like who the STO is, the staff duty officer that's doing the uniform inspections or anything like that.

Speaker 3:

It can become literally a black hole, like a vacuum to exist. I remember, and I can't remember which roommate it was, but I distinctly remember one of my roommates early in their 60 day sentence, like day three or four, they had some Marine come down and caveat. I have many Marine Corps friends and I love the United States Marine Corps. So I don't say this in any sort of knock on the Marine Corps, but I know from my Academy experience and they imagine from the midshipman currently going there, some Marine Corps officers tend to really, really subscribe to attention to detail things like uniform inspections. And I can remember that my roommate like day three into restriction, ended up getting like two weeks tacked on to the sentence, not only can you have data not count and you can be without adjudication awarded up to so many weeks of description. So it was just bizarre. And I just think we remember so much of your fate depended on who was the commander of the day and we would all sit in formation. I think it was in smoke hall, I can't believe, I can't remember that. But there were stairs coming from main office. I kind of went down to smoke hall and I remember you could see the, the CDOs foot come down on the top step and make their way down and you would just see that green leg and like shiny foot and you could feel like, ah,

Speaker 1:

Oh no, this is going to be bad.

Speaker 3:

So yeah, it's quite an experience and you know, I'm sure things have changed in the time, but rest assured, just as it sucks to be a plebe now I don't know what the rules are, but I'm sure it sucks to be a plebe at the Naval Academy. It sucks to be a restrictive at the Naval Academy as well.

Speaker 1:

Oh man. Absolutely. What's funny too is, so at the Naval Academy, all of the senior list leaders, all the company officers come from different communities. It's a mixture. You have like Marine Corps, infantry, and then you could have a, a P eight pilot, you know, or MP3 pilot or whatever it is. And it's a completely different culture. So you could see that freshly crisp like starched pant, uniform leg in the shiny shoe walking down. Or you could see the wrinkled khaki in the scuffed up shoes and the guy with the, you know, his aviator wings walks down and he's like, Hey guys, uh, just marching, you know, like do March your tours, you know, and then report back and then, you know, we'll call it today.

Speaker 3:

We had some guys that, uh, that came down and even brought like roommates around like reunion weekend and stuff that would come down and like dismiss the restrict[inaudible] and like let them go just because they felt obligated to pay back. I wished that I could do that if I could free them, restrict these in some way anyway, I would do that. But yeah, I, it's cool to see that tradition.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. Okay, cool. So we, we kinda took a little tangent off there a little bit away from a lot of black end, but you mentioned that it's a trilogy and the second book is coming out very soon. Do you want to talk a little bit about the book, the motivation behind the book and what you're really going for, what you want to leave the audience with about your second book?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, absolutely. So, and a lot of this is being announced for the first time, so I'll definitely be trying to lead my audience to this podcast. A couple of announcements on the second book. As I said earlier, the black end is a trilogy. Each book of the trilogy will coincide with the award of the subsequent black end of this fictional protagonist. That second book is written and the name of it is going to be sex in the hall and it's going to be really, I say targeted and that things can happen between then and now. But the, the soft date target is going to be army, Navy week 2019. So we are about 10 weeks out and we just did the cover shoot yesterday was on a blue magnet, which was really cool. I was like little corners and making my uh, my bed on top of my, my, my dining room table. Nice. But you know, I think in terms of the, so this book is the continuation of the, the black end, the first novel. Um, it continues the story in this case starting summer training before second class year and second class year. And so there's a lot of really cool kind of prototypical second class stuff, you know, being on your first fleet crews going, your ring dance. But I think the unique aspect of this novel and what makes me so excited is the title sex in the hall. And the fact that, you know, I think it's a topic, I don't know how much it's been kind of conversed about at the Naval Academy and not just from the obvious carnal act, but also from the topic of gender. And, uh, you know, you think about the aspect of women, alumns of the Naval Academy and women midshipman currently at the Naval Academy. And this coming year in 2020 will be the 40 year anniversary of the first 1980 graduates, women graduates of the Naval Academy. And so in this book, in addition to covering Mick Magee, we see his relationship with a Koch protagonist summer Harris as a female member of the class of 99 and I think what this allows me to do within the novel is really paint the picture of what it was like to be a woman at that time. And I say this in that clearly I am not a woman myself. And so as my white male self, I, I certainly lack a direct understanding of what that life is. But I'm very privileged with having a Naval officer wife and many friends, many women classmates and Naval Academy alum that I've listened to over the years. I really felt like there was a story to tell there and that really perpetuates in the novel. And you know, I think in just tone, if you read my first novel and if you haven't, no big deal. I think this stands as a standalone, but I think I really strive for a level of realism and honesty in the book. And I think in this, in this novel, what it allows me to do is paint a very realistic picture of that in a way that's not necessarily intended to be antagonistic or negative to the Naval Academy. I'm sure, you know, I cringed in writing this in times just you know, in, in, in thinking about things that went on in the Naval Academy fuels that way as well. But I think in telling that tale, it is optimistic one in that, you know, it's showing I think for the women that are midshipman today and the new officers that have been recently commissioned from the Naval Academy in the past three to five years, I think the place has changed for the better. And I think for, for those people, whether they're coming from our time or before or in current state reading, this offers a, a real interesting perspective. And I think if anything, I, I really wanted to lay on her to a lot of the women that I went to the Naval Academy with because proof is in the pudding. They went out there and they did their own heroic things and they had a lot of challenges put up with and it was really fun getting to write that, getting to write a protagonist from a woman's perspective. And I, I hope everybody enjoys it. It's, it's something that I'm really proud of and I'm really excited to get it out there.

Speaker 1:

I think that's really special and I'm excited to read it piece. I recently just had a conversation with one of my classmates. She actually met me down in downtown Annapolis and we sat and we talked for like an hour and a half about some of the struggles that she's facing as a woman in the Marine Corps and that, that she still had a, at the Naval Academy. And like you're saying, it definitely has gotten better, but it's not where it needs to be and it's something that we all consciously need to come up and have a productive conversations about. And so I'm really glad that you're bringing up this topic and doing it in a way that is optimistic. And so one, I just want to say thank you for what you're doing. I think it's truly is awesome too. I'm sure it's going to be tremendously entertaining if it's anything like book one and we'll definitely be full of good laughs in three. Again, this is just something that we need to talk about in the military, but especially at the Naval Academy as well. So I just think that's a tremendously beneficial thing that you're doing and I'm really, really looking forward to reading it. So thank you for going ahead and writing about that.

Speaker 3:

Thank you. And thanks for that compliment. And I, I'd return the favor and I'd say, you know, in addition to the novel, I think podcasts like this and others that are out there is just giving so many more people a voice and giving people so much more the opportunity to listen. And you know, there's some really strong voices out there and just think that whether you're writing about it or whether you're, you're putting those voices on blast and a podcast, um, it's really awesome. So I would say, you know, this podcast does a lot of the same and uh, I'm sure there will be more voices to be heard on this podcast.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. I appreciate that. And kind of like you said, I recognize I am a white male and I have a ton of privilege and especially in the military, like the system has been basically designed to benefit me in all aspects. So I want to bring on as many people as I can to talk about some of their experiences and to be role models for future people, even perspective candidates that want to learn about life at the Naval Academy. But also there's another great resource. There's a podcast called the sisterhood and mother bee that is run by Naval Academy graduates where they bring on guests to talk about their experience in the Navy and the Marine Corps as women and kind of going through that and some of the unique experiences in struggles that they had and how to deal with. So if you're interested in that, you're listening to the Academy inside of podcast, but you want to get that perspective as well. Um, I highly recommend you check out the sisterhood and mother bee podcast cause it'll talk about a lot of these things that we're bringing up and that we'll get touched on insects in the hall. But I think it is a fantastic resource as well. So I would highly encourage you to check that out. But Ricky, do you have anything else that you want to add or kinda touch on? Any specific expert you want to talk about from your new book?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, you know, the one that I think really jumps out to me is just the, it's, it's, it's one of the first few chapters in the book and that's just the topic of Herndon and knowing, you know, again, for those not associated with the Naval Academy, the Herndon monument is raped by the Naval Academy chapel. It's very central to the Naval Academy grounds and it's, it's kind of, I guess I would describe it as just a giant obelisk. It's like a miniature version of the Washington monument, 25 feet in the air. And at the end of the year, the end of plebe year, traditionally for hundreds of years of tradition is to grease up that monument, put a Dixie cover cap on the top of it, and the entirety of the plebe class runs out to the monument wipes off the grease climbs to the top, replaces the cover with the midshipmen cover and hence plebe year is complete. And you know, I think in my experience, especially at the time in the mid nineties my Herndon was in 1996 my plebe year as a class in 99 you know, one of the things that just was a very regular instance in that earned incline was seeing women midshipman climbing up the human tier to climb the obelisk and, and hands pulling them backwards off of the obelisk. Even precariously 10 15 foot up in the air. And you know, that was something that I most definitely saw as a midshipman. And you know, again, from the fact that it's just completely dangerous and you know, stupid just in the virtue of you should never pull down a classmate in the effort of climbing and getting this thing. It's the one thing I'll say about Herndon as a tangent is it's one of the stinkiest smelliest and I mean, you just started just covered in body odor, tainted grease, uh, in an hour and a half of mud pit. And it's just like anything to finish it more quickly is I'm all about and you know, but on a serious note, you would see the, the women pulled down and you know, even at the time it, it really, it really struck me and you know, I think over the years that subsequently gone away, or at least that's what I suspected. And you know, as I was writing, uh, sex in the hall and I was writing a chapter about this, that the protagonist summer is actually in the book looking at the, the classic 2001 and their hot climb of Herndon and recollecting some of these things. It was a very difficult chapter to write. You know, because it just reminds you of some of the ugliness that was there. And I, I was curious to see what the world was like in the current day. And I was just like sitting, having a cup of coffee in the morning a few weeks ago. And I was, I was looking on the Naval Academy website and there was a link on there that had, I believe, a, a captain from the class of 1984 whose son, uh, was a plebe last year. And she watched, turned in and recollected just how amazing the experience was to not only see women not getting pulled down from Herndon, but the instance where there was a, a woman of proud alumni of the sixth company, and I wish I could remember her name, but she, she almost made it to the top and the, the crowd in the class were actually chanting for her, get her up to put it off. And I just like, I was hearing that and it just, it almost made me, you know, choked up over the whole thing just to, to know that that's, that's come that far. And, uh, you know, I, it's only a matter of time before a woman does get that Dixie cover and replace it and I think it'll be a really meaningful event. But you know, to know that, that the, the, the ugly part of that event seemingly has disappeared is, is a really great sign. But one small facsimile of, of the, of a much broader problem that existed at least back in my day. Um, but you know, to see that change, that change incrementally is really great to see. So, you know, I think that's, that's already been one really positive experience of writing this book and knowing definitively that things have changed for the better.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. I couldn't agree more with you. Like honestly as you just kind of talking about it, it kind of gave me the chills because what people don't realize, if you haven't been heard it before is there are thousands of people there and so it's a huge event, right? And so to, to have that go and where people are chanting like get her up like that is, it's truly amazing cause it gets really loud and like the moment the cover does get changed, you know everyone starts going crazy. The please start chanting, pleads no more plead no more and like it's just a, it's a crazy wild event. So to hear you talk about that, it honestly kinda just like gave me a quick like woo, like chill because everyone remembers, heard it. It's us a special big event and I think when that does happen for the first time it's going to be really, really cool. Really cool. Sweet. All right, well thank you so much for sharing that story as well as everything about your new book but coming up this weekend you have a 20 year reunion at the Naval Academy. Are you excited about that?

Speaker 3:

I am beyond excited. There are classmates and really, really good friends. I have not laid eyes on in that in over 20 years. And so to get all of the class of 99 together and to spend a weekend together in Annapolis, I can't say how proud I am to be a part of that class and so many memorable members and friends and yeah, I'm, I'm super excited to see everybody and Navy football continues to roll. I also am looking forward to seeing my Navy brotherhood take on USF and hopefully get a, get a w in the column so couldn't be more excited for the weekend.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. Awesome. Well thank you so much for all of that. Do you have anything else that you want to bring up? Otherwise we're going to jump into our lightning round of questions that I do with every guests that I bring on to the Academy insider podcast.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I guess the only thing that I'd say just kind of related to the novel is, you know, I think with the novel and also in venues like this podcast, the intent of my novel was not necessarily to, to glorify the anti-hero or to say that, you know, every midshipman needs to be a rabble rouser to, you know, be the, the best officer that that's absolutely not the case. I, I have classmates that were, and friends that were just absolute by the book gold standard midshipman. And then I had, you know, many, many roommates that, that were absolutely not that standard. And I think, you know, and being able to tell those stories though fictionally and, and on this podcast, being able to, you know, laughably talk about army Navy pranks and the one restriction I think for the people listening in the audience, particularly for those still in the Naval Academy now, or thinking about going to the Naval Academy, you know, there's a lots of different flavors of midshipman when you're in there. You know, I think heroes come in in lots of different shapes and sizes. And I think what makes the Naval Academy a special place is the people within that structure. Naval Academy unto itself is a magnificent institution. It's one of the most beautiful scenic, beautiful, scenic and beautiful places that I've ever seen. I still love seeing the Chesapeake and in the times that I get to be there, but it is absolutely about the midshipman and the people that are there and for the midshipmen that are currently going there know that you are living amidst heroes. There are people that you are living with, his roommates that you're associating with daily within your company and many of them will go on personally be heroes and you know, I think for that, just being able to tell those tails, getting to do a small fraction of that with this book, listening to it as a fan of this podcast, I just, it's, it's really great to see it happening.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. Thank you for sharing that. That's awesome. I love it. I loved your first book. I'm so excited to read the second one honestly, so thank you so much for sharing all that regarding the black end trilogy. All right. With that though, we're going to jump into our lightning round of questions, which was a good transition because you talked about how scenic and beautiful the Naval Academy is. So with that, our first question is, what is your favorite spot on the yard?

Speaker 3:

I have a couple and uh, I'll admit being a midshipman of honor that's lived under an honor code. I, I have listened to a handful of your podcasts. I haven't listened to all of them because I didn't want to cheat in the lightning round, but I've heard a few of these questions. I, I probably have had a little bit of time to think about it. So yeah, shame on me for having an advantage. You know, I think in terms of my favorite spots, you know, I think from just pure scenery, and again, I don't want to be like inspiring, please don't try this at home. A midshipman as a, as a legal caveat, but I remember as a midshipman going out on the roof of Bancroft, I didn't know if you can do this anymore, but we used to climb out on the top floor out of the windows and like sit the roof of Bancroft and smoke cigarettes and I will remember how magnificently beautiful Bay was from that angle and just how unbelievably scared crapless I was being up there. I'm a little bit afraid of Heights and I just have so many memories of being up there. So that's one of the places. And I guess the other one that just can't comes up to me is to me the heart and soul of Bancroft and that's Memorial hall. You know, standing in front of that don't give up. The ship flag is just, I don't know, a midshipman that hasn't at one point stood in front of that flag. Whether it was, you know, Hey I need to get this grade on a test or Hey, I just lost a loved one. There's just a lot of grit in that room. And you think about what that room stands for. When I think about the Naval Academy, you can't not go visit that. I mean it's just the absolute place you have to visit. It's the, to me, the heart and soul of the Naval Academy.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. And quick disclaimer, you absolutely will get put on restriction if you go up to the roof of Bancroft. So absolutely beautiful, highly recommended. Just want to give a quick shout out if anyone's listening, you might want to do that unless you're trying to get a little bit of restriction, you know, just a little bit, you know, just get a taste that then baby

Speaker 3:

the window. Yeah, don't, don't, don't go up to the roof.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. All right, second question. What is your favorite meal in King hall?

Speaker 3:

Without a doubt. Z burgers, they used to serve as a tradition. I don't even know if they still do this, but Oh my gosh. So every Wednesday is a tradition. They would just hand out like your, your burger, your cheeseburger kits and it would come with, you know, American cheese and bacon and onion rings. And I just remember pile and down two of those add had to be like 3000 calories. I think sometimes I put peanut butter on it like Elvis and I'd eat two of those. And we used to always call, and I didn't even know if they call this anymore, but if you had an afternoon without classes, they call that a youngster afternoon cause you could nap as a plebe, you weren't allowed to nap. And as an upperclassman you were. So I just remember my entire academic career at the Naval Academy was constructed around not having classes on Wednesday afternoon so I could like power down two of these magnificent cheeseburgers and like take a three hour power nap. Um, I had a football practice, but I love that meal. And I guess the, the other one that I'll mention being from the Delmarva shore and from the ocean, I loved watching the non mid Atlantic people try to crack crabs. At the beginning of the year we would have that crab festival and people would, you know, like 90% of our grade would just look bewildered at these, like, you know, fried arachnids. I'd be cracking crabs and loving every minute of it. But that, that was the fun one too. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

That's hilarious. That's funny that you, uh, you went and worked your schedule around, you know, planning your naps. Like, like that's a real thing. That's a real thing. You're like, Ooh, eh. Honestly, so my second semester, senior year I was like, I don't know what classes I'm going to take. I just know I'm going to have a youngster on Friday afternoon cause this is like the first time, second semester senior year basketball season we'll be done after spring break. Like this would be the first time I can actually like go have a full weekend. Um, so I made sure that I had youngsters on Fridays, but as a result, and I was a cyber major, I took this class called high performance computing, which was a 400 level computer science class that I had no business in being in. And it was just, it was miserable. I almost felt like I had to go to the professor every single day and I was like, look, I just need a C. like, what do I need to do to get a C? But it was worth it because I got my Friday yesterday and I didn't want to see, so we're good. Just can't, you know, just can't fail. Right. For you know, your right before you graduate. But that's a real thing. All right, fantastic. So, and it earlier podcasts have brought on a guest enables Nikki goods. We talked about signature sheets at the Academy. What did you require your plebes do in order to earn your signature? Yeah,

Speaker 3:

man. Well first I listened that episode. It's an excellent episode. So whoever, whoever out there hasn't listened to it, definitely check it out. But, uh, and you guys had some great stories. I honestly, I wish as I was listening to it, I was like struggling to remember exactly what we did because we didn't have, I'm ashamed to say we didn't have quite as much innovation. I think for us, a lot of it was just to recognize us. You had mentioned, and maybe this is my recollection, football, especially in the fall at reform for Gade, you know, kept me out in the hall often. So, yeah, I was one of those guys that, you know, for for three months, four months, I was just completely a ghost from company area. Um, and so oftentimes it was just like, man, if you can just remember my face and not, you know, remember me that I was again, uh, a pretty average height, pretty average build midshipman. I'm sure it was a nightmare to remember from, from um, you know, normally you want to have something differentiating to remember the names. I think what I remembered in, in listening to the signature sheets was more the experience as a plead myself going through it and how much anxiety, not just the signature sheet but just in memorizing all of the upper-class names. I am terrible with names to this day. I'm terrible with names. It's like embarrassing and like putting 18 year old Ricky Conlan in the spot where it was like, okay, here's a hundred plus people, all of whom are wearing the exact same thing. 80% of them were like, you know, 90% identical white theme and they all want to yell at you and make your life miserable. If you don't remember their name, like just the, I, I have, if I have anxiety dreams that always gravitates back to, to plebe year. I have to this day nightmares about those little anxieties. So it is all a game. And I remember telling myself at that time it was all a game, but it does, uh, it makes you, I uh, I still have anxiety dreams about them.

Speaker 1:

Oh yeah. That's the worst cause you'd go and you'd get like 20 or 30 signatures the night beforehand. So you'd see 20 or 30 phases, like you're saying, look exactly the same. The next day you're, you're happy butts chopping down the hall and someone stops you and you're like,

Speaker 2:

uh,

Speaker 1:

I don't know your name. And you're like, you don't know my name. Like I introduced myself to you last night. You're like, yeah, but so did like 50 other and you just got to stay there. No excuse sir. No excuse sir. A classic that, and that's it.

Speaker 3:

One a hole that wants you to go on a research project and go to the library and look up some present. We were like, this was Sans internet. So like, yeah, I remember going to the library and look up

Speaker 1:

that scrolled through the bucks,

Speaker 3:

the candlelight. But uh, yeah, I just remember that experience more from my perspective of how anxious it made me as a plebe. But, uh, yeah, it's funny how those things stick with you for sure. Even subconsciously they do. Absolutely.

Speaker 1:

All right. Next question. So, you know, your novelists yourself, you're not allowed to pick, you not allowed to pick your own book, but what is your favorite book?

Speaker 3:

You know, I, I really love, uh, I love a lot of books, but I think my favorite writer of all time is Mark Twain. So I love a lot of his, multiple of his cat classics come Sawyer huckleberry Finn. I think what I love about him as a writer is the simplicity of the writing. And I, I remember reading a lot of those books is, you know, as a seventh grader or an eighth grader and you're being able to pick them up. I think I recently read them in my early forties, and uh, you know, it's something to be able to write that that's, that transcendent in time and age. And I just, I've always admired, uh, that, that simplistic nature of, um, Mark Twain's writing. Um, and then of course I, I can't be an Academy novelist without having a few favorite Naval Academy books. Yeah, I will. And I'm sure that I'm, I'm missing several because there are, there are more that I'll lift that are good out there, but the ones that I really particularly member are, and again, I can't, I can't remember the author that wrote it, so shame on me, but Nightingale song is a nonfiction book largely around 50s era Naval Academy grads and it, it touches all about John McCain and Admiral Larson who was our superintendent and Ollie North and James Webb. It's just an incredible recollection of, you know, a historic timeframe of Naval Academy alumni. And I just, it was just such a special thing to read that know that that was what I was a part of. I'm sure midshipman reading that would get the same experience if not more so knowing what those individuals went on to do with their lives even beyond the nineties and you know, I think James Webb's sense of honor, you know, to me, I remember very specifically seeing that novel my plebe year and holding it in my hand and was probably the first moment where it was like, wow, I'd love to do this one day. And I remember reading it and loving it and just finding such a bond with the older Academy grads when you just kind of see how different that experience was. But how you met was and you know, I think part of that inspired me to write this book in that, you know, the Naval Academy is a tough place to be in no matter what time you're in there shifts in the level of[inaudible], but it's, it's a special place and I just really remember reading sense of honor as a midshipman. I read it several times after and to, to this day it remains one of my all time favorite books.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely love it. Perfect. All right. Last question for you. Of your four years in Annapolis, what was your like just absolute favorite or greatest memory that you have?

Speaker 3:

I'd be lying if I said that it didn't have to do with a commissioning week, my 50 year just because that happy time, it's a happy time for add love being. I did my book release and book signing during commissioning week and I did that very intentionally with my book because it's such a happy time. Everybody is celebrating everybody's at the bars. And so I just remember, especially the first day knowing that your long journey is coming to an end and you just kind of celebrating its end. Um, so many happy memories and that that were, you know, at the time didn't appreciate so many people that I got to spend time with. And that was the last time in some cases the last time that I got to spend with, with them forever. And like there were friends that have passed and you know, people that I haven't seen and I, so I just, I remember that commissioning week and I remember waking up. Of course the cap toss and being at Navy Marine Corps stadium was certainly a thrill I'd, everybody remembers that experience. I remember waking up that morning, waking up that morning and being like, Oh my God, this is the last morning I'm ever going to have to sleep and wake up in the Naval Academy bed. And I would[inaudible]

Speaker 1:

yeah.

Speaker 3:

Like, you know, like Christmas morning school, all of that stuff like bundled into one bundle of joy and you know, like weddings and birth of children surpassed that. But at that point in my life, you know, being 22 years old or three year olds old, however old I was at that time, I'll never forget that moment. And, uh, the, I guess the outside of that day, the other moment that I'll remember, and it's, I guess perhaps a, a very, uh, very me story. Um, there was a parade, and I can't remember if it was the color parade and there, there, there used to be two formal parades during commissioning week. It was the last parade and the tradition was, and I was a platoon commander and I[inaudible], which is laughable. I'm like horrible at drill. I had to borrow youngsters, a FDB top. And I'm like, you know, walking around with my sword with like a youngster Stripe on jackass. Um, and uh, so I'm, I'm like sweating it out, afraid that some somebody's gonna like lighten me up for wearing the wrong[inaudible] and we make it through, nobody passes out and we're like horribly hung over at the time. So we make it through all of that full accountability. We're marching back. And then of course, and I don't even know if they still do this, but it used to be the tradition that after the last parade, the first season

Speaker 1:

chasing him down,

Speaker 3:

jump into the fountain or the Bay. And I remember they very specifically told us that under no circumstance we were going to jump in the, in the fountains or the water. And like that to me was just like a giant bullseye to say that, you know,

Speaker 1:

Oh, you should do it. Oh, that'd be, we're going to do it.

Speaker 3:

So I remember like leaving a charge of five or six, uh, crazy first E midshipman into the fountain and they had like the, the, the Academy police, the Jimmy legs. I know we're not supposed to say that word, uh, based off of, uh, Academy appropriateness. I know they've, they've eliminated that for relationships between the mids, but these Jimmy legs were chasing me, uh, out of the fountain. They had it scouted out and I just remember running through like the basements of show Vinay and Mickelson through like chemistry labs, physics labs, ditching these policemen chasing me. And like, right up until the point of graduation to where we were lining up to get our degree. I don't even know if I've ever been told my mom and dad this story. I just remember like profusely sweating, thinking that somebody was gonna pull me out of the line and said that they had some videotape of me getting chased by the Academy police for jumping into the, into the fountain. But, um, and then, you know, to, to put icing on the cake. I did graduate of course, and they graduated on time and it made it extra sweet with that has a cap toss. But then I saw the front page of the paper of the Annapolis capital in there. My, my ugly mug was on the front page of the Capitol in the fountain with my sword. Um, and uh, I guess I lived to die another day, but that certainly was a memory of my graduation and perhaps was the cherry on top. That made it extra sweet.

Speaker 1:

The, the, the, that's awesome. So now we do it. We're a little similar but slightly different. They probably as a result are like, ah, I hate this, but, and suck the pier going to do it anyway. We have now like made it so it's a little more structured, but basically the plebes, the pleads chase down the first E's. So if you're a any kind of like platoon commander up, like plebes will chase chase you down and you try and run away. But if the plebes catch you, then they basically carry you to the fountain or to like the Bay and just toss you in. So like you're getting carried by like eight plays and they just like throw you into the water.

Speaker 3:

Uh, I liked that tradition and uh, I feel privileged to be a part of, uh, carrying that on for that short time that are our modest, our modest swim in the a in the fountain lasted.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. All right. Well Ricky, thank you so much for coming to talk about all of this. I really praise you. Have it on. This is a super fun episode and I just couldn't be more grateful you took the time to join us today.

Speaker 3:

Likewise grant. Really happy to be here. Love your podcast and again for for those fans of my literary self, black N is out on amazon.com, u h, as well as both Walmart and Barnes and noble and look for the release of black end volume t o s ex in the hall, hopefully coming out army, Navy 2019. Really, really excited to get it out there. And last of all, shout out to my s ixth company classmates, my Naval Academy classmates. Really looking forward to the reunion and u h, again, couldn't be happier to be associated with such an awesome place. So thanks everybody and thanks for listening.

Speaker 1:

Love it. Thank you so much, Ricky. I tell my listeners, I hope you have a great day and a roll. Goats,

Speaker 3:

amen.

Speaker 1:

Thank you all for listening to the podcast. Please leave me a review on iTunes and be sure to subscribe to the Academy insider podcast. If you want to know more about Ricky or any of his books, check out our show notes and we'll be make sure to include all the links, uh, to get you all of the information that you need. If you want to know more about the Naval Academy in general, go to my website, www.academyandsaturday.com or check out my Facebook page, Academy insider. Again, all the links discussed in the show today are listed in the show notes. And thank you so much for letting me be your guide to the United States Naval Academy.