Dateline: 1989 Subic Bay Naval Base / Olongapo City, Philippines 1600hrs
“Knock Off Ship’s Work! Liberty Call! Liberty Call!” reverberated from the 1MC onboard the USS Frederick, LST 1184.
Simultaneously a couple hundred sailors went into Fred Flintstone mode, “Yabba Dabba Dooo!!”
To beat the stampede off the ship, Matt, Rogers, and I were already in our berthing compartment donning our civvies. We were, as always, five minutes ahead of the game. We double-timed up to the quarterdeck,
“Permission to go ashore” we said in unison to the O.O.D, (Officer of the Deck)
“Very well,” he replied, and we scampered down to the pier almost knocking each other down in our haste. Free at last!
Olongapo City was Sexual Disneyland for Sailors and Marines. Up and down Magsaysay Boulevard, every other venue a bar, and every other venue was a massage parlor (“Hey Sailor! You want massage with sensation?”) and every other, other joint was what could be better described as a ‘Mega-Club’. These had no less than three to four hundred ‘working girls.’ These Mega-Clubs, (solely owned and operated by the Chinese Mafia) which were often three stories high, were death traps in the event of a fire, no matter how small. The din inside was cacophonous. Ear plugs were prudent. If the place didn’t burn down during your sojourn, you could still get trampled to death in the stampede to get out the solitary door. Cigarette smoke swirled up like morning Mekong mist in Apocalypse Now. No one felt the danger. Nor cared.
This was not my first rodeo. I had been to Olongapo before (WESTPAC deployment in 1986). Ditto for my two compadres. All three of us were GM’s—Gunner’s mates. We were ‘Old Salts’. Matt was married to a Filipina and she seconded to San Dog (San Diego), happily fucking every Marine she could lay legs on. This TMI came directly from Matt and was common knowledge. He admitted to being a cuckold, but was so blindly in love he was powerless to do anything about it. Rogers was married as well, but cuckold, he was none. Rogers was a little wiry Irish descendant, reddish blond-haired crazy son of a bitch. The three of us were absolutely the best of friends.
There could not be a more divergent set of personalities. Matt was an artist. He was thoughtful, mild-mannered, and really too nice of a guy for his chosen vocation. Rogers was coarse, with a bit of a Napoleon Complex, fearless, rowdy. And crazy. My persona was dark and foreboding and dangerous. I had ‘rocked out’ of SEAL training for the second time and had but one year left before I could turn in my Canoe Club Card and get the hell outta This Man’s Navy. Having failed to make it in Naval Spec-Warfare, my Naval Career was over as far as I was able to give one shit. This made me dangerous. Rogers loved that about me. Matt was just generally apprehensive.
We did not enjoy the Magsaysay scene: it was just too rowdy—too loud—too frenetic—too immature (Yes: I said ‘immature’) We were not looking for prostitutes. Matt had his loving wife; Rogers had his Trailer-Park-Shotgun-Bride with their four tow-headed kids, each born precisely nine months and twenty minutes after the preceding. And I had my transplanted Yankee Girlfriend waiting (?) back in San Dog.
We just wanted a joint which would have that “Cheers” ambiance. We found it at Viva Young, a little shit-hole-in-the-wall bar off on a side street (And actually ‘Off Limits’—even better: nothing more fun than jacking with the SP’s—Shore Patrol). Viva Young had become our place and all the girls (and the Mama-San) knew our names. There was not much to it. It was a narrow long bar, perhaps 1500 square feet, dark and smoky and the music volume did not force us to shout.
Upon entering Viva Young, one was instantly assaulted with ‘Welcome!’
“We love you here, Sailor Man!”
“Take your shoes off! We love you!”
There was a long cat walk. The cat walk was the main attraction—taking up most of the bar. At the very back of the bar, just for fun, were two pool tables.
The nubile Filipinas, fresh from Soccer Practice (we always seemed to show up during the lax time-that time between the end of girls soccer and the Real Deal), would greet us:
Hey Mister Marcone! Hey Mista Matt! Hey Mista Rog! We love you! Buy me drink?!”