Not Shonnie, But Pretty Close (and almost) BeautifulEnough to be a Reasonable Facsimile
In Nineteen-Eighty-Seven San Diego County there was only one Country & Western Bar/Dance Hall (that I knew of). I was sorely missing Texas and even though I was never what one might call ‘A Hardcore Country Music Fan’, I was feeling nostalgic. So I bought me a pair of Nocona’s, and no, I did not varnish them,
a Stetson, couple pair of Wrangler’s, some shirts with snaps, a string tie, and off I went, ‘Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.‘
But in this case, I had found ‘The Right Place’. Even though I didn’t realize it at the time.
(This One below is Personal and for Shonnie. Wherever she may be.
No need to watch. My narrative would survive without it. But my heart would not.
If you do choose to watch/listen, keep in mind it sums up, and also foreshadows in a nutshell, a great deal of the content in the chapters to come.)
The name of joint escapes me. Not important. But it was along the lines of ‘Gilley’s’ in Pasadena, Texas, albeit much the lesser.
I mean, Gilley’s had five bars in theirBar and the largest dance floor in Texas, if not The World. (My apologies to ‘Billy Bob’s’ in Fort Worth.)
This ‘Honky-Tonk,’ and I use the term loosely, had but one bar and one medium-sized dance floor. And it didn’t even have chicken wire in front of the stage to protect the band from flying Lone Star long-neck beer bottles.
What a gyp!
Would serve my purposes however, or at least sate my low expectations. I mean, we are talking Southern California here folks, after all.
(According to SirWillie Nelson in hisfirst book,“Willie: An Autobiography,”The Good Folks who ran Gilley’s, Mickey Gilley et Al,during the Early Years (1971) were compelled to install the wire. Without it, no band would agree to perform there. Things could, and often did, get ‘Rowdy’ at Gilley’s.
By the Time Peanut and I were spending Quality Time in the place–Mid to Late Seventies–I saw no chicken wire. But the rowdy remained. More often than not with Peanut in the thick of it and too often the cause of it. “That Sonuvabitch done pissed me off!”
“Thanks for the memories, P’Nut–You fuckin’ Nut.”)
Credit: Channel Two Houston and devonhart,
June 26, 2014 in ‘Historic Houston’
So I began to frequent this establishment in earnest. The thing that stuck me upon my first visit was that all the ‘Cowboys’ and ‘Cowgirls’ looked like Yuppies. Not Dallas Yuppies, mind you: ‘Southern California Yuppies’.
The walls were adorned with all manner of Rodeo Scenes, all of which looked as if Norman Rockwell might have dragged his brush across them.
There were also some lariats, a few saddles strategically placed against a couple of walls, a few ‘decorative’ spittoons (nothing more useless in the world than a spittoon ‘what never dun been used’), and many more things I cannot find the stomach to recount.
The lighting was, well, Too Light. Hopefully, this would be rectified later in the evening’s adventure as the ‘real’ Cowfolks came sauntering in.
One sustains hope in situations such as these. There really is no other choice.
“Good Godawmighty! Lance! Son, you were more ‘at home’ in the Titty-Bars downtown San Dog than this abhorrent lame excuse for a ‘Honky-Tonk’,” voice in my head said.
The other voice in my head (Probably Peanut’s) said, “Cowboy?! You know you ain’t no real Cowboy neither; jes’ go wid it.”
There was, as I said, one bar. And immediately to the right of this bar…
(a respectable looking bar, if I do grudgingly admit, replete with no less than four barkeeps and many, many serving wenches scurrying back and forth not unlike so many dutiful worker ants—all very pretty—in that Southern California-Wanna-be-Urban-Cowgirl-Beach-Babe-Kinda-Style)
…was the stage with a Cowboy Band. Actually a damn good one. They even had a fiddle player (so at least they could play ‘Amardillo By Morning’ a song which always reminded me of ‘Monsieur Le Peanut’, and forever held a special place in my heart and in my ears.
Immediately in front of the Bar was that ‘dance floor’, (No sawdust, but that could be grudgingly forgiven, I suppose).
The rest was mainly four-seater tables and chairs (And Candles! Fer Christ’s Sake! Candles!)
For the life of me, I could not spy a single pool table nor a shuffle board nor even an air hockey table. Certainly no mechanical bull.
The bar itself drew me first (of course). I asked for a Lone Star and got a vacant look. “Ok, gimme a shot ah Beam and a… ah… a Heineken.” (‘Jerry Jeff, please forgive them; for they know not what they do’.)
Now properly attired and bona-fide in my two-fisted drinker status, I went searching for a table close to the dance floor. As it was relatively early, I had no difficulty finding same.
I sat and drank and wistfully, wishfully, sorta woefully…
‘Cowgirl’ Watched, as I drifted back into memories of ‘for real’ Cowgirls.
The place began to fill up along ‘bout 1900hrs. The joint was semi-jumping now. (For San Diego, I guess. By that time I suppose the surf was no longer ‘up’).
I studied the apparently single cowgirls and spied a rather lanky ‘tall drank ah water’, long-haired brunette with Sloe-Gin eyes and all that implies, just tearing things up with several different dance partners.
I made my move between songs. Sashayed over to her and asked for a ‘daince’, (actually tipping my hat! Yes! Yes! I know! Bullshit!) trying ever-so-hard to establish that I weren’t no ‘Coke-a-Cola Cowboy’, but a real ‘un.
Lance as “Cowboy”
We danced the dance and I could sense I was not her cup of… whatever it is that they actually drink here.
She whispered in my ear, “Hey ‘Cowboy’ (rather mockingly, I perceived), “I have a friend you should meet. Her name’s ‘Shonnie’ and she is seated (seated?) just right over there. C’mon! I’ll introduce ‘Y’all’” (Yet another perceived slight?)
I glanced in the direction she was leading us and saw a rather diminutive dirty blond, absently stirring her drink as she casually watched the band while they began to belt out some Randy Travis monstrosity.
We waltzed up to the table and my escort announced quite cheerfully, “Hey Shonnie! I found you a ‘real’ Cowboy.” (She quickly whispered to me, “Hey Sugar Britches, what’s your name?”)
“Uh, Shonnie, Girlfriend, This here’s ‘Lance’. Say ‘Howdy.’”
I shook the diminutive hand she offered and sat down.
“Uh, Howdy Shonnie, Little Lady; Nice to meet Y’all.” (Yes, I was really laying it on thick, but I was somewhere between buzzed and drunk and starting to figure, ‘What the hell I got to lose’?)
She smiled wily, if not demurely, through semi-white teeth, Marlboro smoke, and Paul Newman Blue Eyes. I must admit: I was intrigued.
Thus began one of the most bizarre ‘flings’ I have ever had.
More to come…
“And I’ll be lookin’ for eight when they pull that gate.”
“And we all hope the judge IS blind (but you knew that, didn’t you? You asshole! You were not supposed to die first. We made a pact. Didn’t we?? Don’t you remember?”)
“Rest, My Very Best Friend.“
“You are severely missed.“
“I’ll catch up to you.”
Suzy Bogguss – Someday Soon
Vid Share Cred: Robert W. Roddis, Esq.
Below You Will Find Most Of The Original Posts. Once / If You Arrive At Thirteen There Are Links To The Final Few Chapters. Please keep in mind however, that each and every one of them is in the process of being rewritten: first to last. This will probably take at least two or three weeks.
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.”
was living large in the ‘Proper Garage Apartment’ and was ‘in good’ with the Landlord. She informed me he had this ‘wonderful little apartment’ for rent, which was ‘just perfect’ for me. Read CHEAP.
I checked it out, paid my fifty bucks and moved in. The moving in took all of two minutes, for I had not much to move.
Working for Ruth at her Liquor store in Ladonia and making a solid three dollars fifty cents an hour (plus ‘benefits), it was indeed, ‘perfect’ for me.
Now mind you, I never complained about living in such a place. After all, it did suit me and no one would have cared anyhow if it didn’t. It had some kind of ‘certain charm’ (just like this place) to be sure.
How many folks could invite a guest into their home and lead them past the shitter before arriving into the living room/bedroom/kitchen/study proper? As far as I knew, I had the only such place in all of Commerce. It was special.
And truth be told, I did some ‘entertaining’ there a couple of times. The only person who I would invite over was my girlfriend. She never judged me. She was always happy to be with me, no matter the venue. (Yes, that sounds conceited, but there it is Gentle Reader—c’est vrai, or quel dommage, or… choose your own français).