I slept through ‘Throw-Back Thursday’, so I jumped on my Dash Eight and headed West until I crossed The International Date Line.
OK, NOW it’s Thursday.
Guess where I ended up?
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 about a 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,
“Request permission to go ashore” we said in unison as we saluted the O.O.D, (Officer of the Deck) in front of us.
“Very well,” he replied, and then we faced astern and saluted the flag or ‘ensign’ in the proper vernacular.
“Salute the Fag, then the Flag”. (Helpful hint to remember the proper protocol for departing a U.S. Navy vessel.)
Scampering down the gangway to the pier we nearly knocked each other down in our haste.
Free at last!
We hustled down toward the Shit-River Bridge which connected Subic Bay Naval Base to Olongapo. Shit River was similar to the Poo Pond I wrote about in my Letter from a South Park Jail series. But the primary difference between the two was no one ever physically came in contact with the Poo Pond.
In Olongapo Filipino children would paddle small boats under the Shit River Bridge and wait for sailors to toss coins into the water.
These children would dive down into the ‘bio-hazardous’ searching for the coins.
To my knowledge no one from my ship ever tossed coins into the river. This was considered dishonorable behavior and rightly so. And for reasons so obvious that I won’t even list them here.
Once safely across the bridge we entered Magsaysay Blvd., AKA Magsaysay Drive. Strolling down Magsaysay requires a keen sense of situational awareness. Jeepneys, trikes, drunken sailors and marines, Shore Patrols, flying beer bottles… All of these while-on-liberty-occupational hazards must be recognized and avoided—at all costs.
Olongapo City was Sexual Disneyland for Sailors and Marines.
Up and down Magsaysay Boulevard, every other venue a bar, and every other—other venue was a massage parlor (“Hey Sailor! You want massage with sensation?”) and every other, other joint was what could best be 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) 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. Cigarette smoke swirled up like the morning Mekong mist in Apocalypse Now.
Imagine a super-sized opium den with high-amp electronic music and strobe lights.
Den of Sin
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.
No one feared the danger.
This was not my first rodeo. I had been to Olongapo before (World Cruise deployment on the U.S.S Callaghan DDG 994 in 1986).
Ditto for my two compadres and we were all GM’s—Gunner’s mates–‘Old Salts’.
Matt was a thoughtful mild mannered, about six-foot tall perfect AJ-Squared-Away first class petty officer gunner but with one fatal flaw:
He loved Filipinas, and specifically one Filipina above all others:
Josie was a very beautiful, vivacious, vexatious, sexy, striking woman who was ‘seconded’ to San Dog (San Diego), happily fucking every Marine she could lay legs on while Matt was out to sea and some would also ungraciously add, ‘Out to Lunch’.
But this ‘TMI’ came directly to Rog and me from Matt himself and he knew it was common knowledge throughout The Fleet. (Okay, the entire Seventh Fleet did not know of Matt’s marriage troubles, but it sure did seem so at times)
He unashamedly admitted to being a cuckold, but was so blindly in love he was powerless to do anything about it.
Love has fucked up more lonely sailors and marines than I am able to count, although I really need only count to one:
Rogers was married as well, but cuckold, he was none. He was a little wiry Irish descendant, ‘bout five-foot and small change with reddish blond-hair and bluish blood-stained wild eyes.
He was one crazy little dynamo son of a bitch with a fair allotment of Napoleon overcompensation built in.
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 and leery.
The three of us were absolutely the very best of buddies and shipmates in every good sense of the term.
Yet, a more divergent trio of personalities could not be dreamed.
One thing in common though: we did not enjoy the Magsaysay Big-Bar 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 tucked in between more substantial and popular bars. For the most part, it went unnoticed, overlooked, and passed-on-by.
Viva Young Baby!
(And Viva Young was deemed ‘Off Limits’ by The Naval Command—never did understand why, but this made it 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. Not many even knew of it, and even if they did, they would not frequent the place.
It was too dark, too run down, not to mention the fact that the regulars (Matt, Lance, and Rog—plus a handful of Marines) did not cotton to stupid, young and green Sailors and Marines fresh out of boot camp or A-School wanting to suck up Our Air.
We ran all interlopers off with gusto and frequency, much to the chagrin of Mama-San, the manager.
We made it up to her though, always spending much more than expected and for shit-sure leaving huge tips all around, just like the drunken sailors/marines that you may have heard about.
We invented that cliché.
Upon entering Viva Young, we were instantly assaulted with an all-hands-on-deck ‘Welcome!’ from the girls.
“We love you here Sailor Man!”
“Take your shoes off! We love you!”
“We miss you!”
“We lub chew no chit!”
(Best rendition of a Filipina accent I can muster—ya kinda have to experience it for your-own-self to get the ‘full benefit’.)
Here is a song to prove I am not making this up:
I Love You No Shit
Buy Me Honda
Edmundo Olino Katuwaan Channel. Pinoy Country Singer
There was a long cat-walk. The cat-walk was the main attraction—taking up most of the square footage real estate. At the very back of the bar, just for fun, or an afterthought, were two pool tables. There may have been a rusty pinball machine as well, but I possibly have dreamed that.
The nubile Filipinas, fresh from Soccer Practice and still in their uniform until later in the evening were a joy to behold and to hold.
We always seemed to show up during the lax time—that time between the end of girls’ soccer and the Real Deal.
They would continuously shower us with their attentive affections:
“Hey Mista Rance! Hey Mista Matt! Hey Mista Rog! We love you! We love you no-shit! Buy me drink?! Buy me Honda?!”
“Sure on the drink Honey! The Honda… maybe later.”
Stay tuned… it gets better.