After a good night’s sleep and an uneventful day at ‘work’, Matt and I hit the beach at 1600hrs. Rog was not to accompany us because he had ‘The Duty’ and could not leave the ship.
That is the little part of The Naval Service Experience the recruiters never tell you about:
A war ship must be ever-ready to put to sea.
Or put out a fire.
Or counter a terrorism threat.
Or clean the shitters.
Or Worst of All: Standing Watch!
Hence, a percentage of the Ship’s Crew must remain on board at-all-times.
AT ALL TIMES
Call it a ‘skeleton crew’ if you will.
This is fitting since while stuck on board, unable to leave, one feels as if better off dead than…
Suffer the dread
Because Having The Duty Sucks!
AT ALL TIMES!
“Navy: It’s Not Just a Job. It’s A Pain-In-The-Ass.”
Magsaysay was a little more frenetic than usual for a hot, humid sunny day.
Or maybe it was my imagination.
“Matt,” I remarked as we sauntered down the street heading for Viva Young, “Seem a little busy today?”
“It’s a Filipino holiday,” he said.
“No shit? What’s the occasion?”
“I thought the Filipinos despised him.”
“They do. This holiday commemorates that poison arrow they embedded in his ass back in Fifteen Twenty-One.”
I laughed. “You’re bull-shittin’ me Matt!”
“Yeah, I am.” And he laughed. “I have no idea what, if anything special’s going on today.”
“How do you remember?”
“What? Remember what?” he said, while wistfully gazing at a Filipina standing in a barroom doorway.
Matt was easily distracted and had already lost the train of our conversation.
“The year of the untimely death of ‘Ferdinand-The-Fucked’”
(“Don’t know much about History. Don’t know much Biology. Don’t know much about a Science book. Don’t know much about the French I took …” But this sailor knows just enough to get him into trouble.)
“You remember who I married right?”
“Oh yeah. Of course. But I didn’t take Josie for a Philippines’ history buff.”
“I married her for her brain, not for her big tits and tight ass.”
“Now I KNOW you’re bull-shit.”
We laughed some more and continued down the street dodging the ubiquitous Jeepneys and Trikes and street vendors and sailors and marines and… You get the picture.
As we were making our descent toward Viva Young, we passed a balloon vendor who was struggling with an armload of bright balloons.
A light-bulb idea lit up in my brain (This sometimes happens, not often, but sometimes)
and I stopped dead in my tracks. Matt did not notice and kept on walking.
“Hey Matt!” I hollered, “Wait a sec. I wanna buy a balloon.”
Since Matt is a sentimental artist, he thought nothing of it.
Now if Rog had been with us, there probably definitely would have been some unhappy words exchanged.
But Rog was stuck on the Freddy. And I smiled inside, imagining him stewing over doing his ‘Duty.’
I walked over to the kid selling balloons. He must have had no less than a baker’s dozen and a-half all trying to escape into the sky. Since I am such a prince of a guy, I decided to relieve him of his burden so he could call it an early day.
“How much for all?” I asked.
“How much for all?” I repeated. “I wanna buy all your balloons.”
“Uh, Pive Hundred Peso” (This is roughly ten dollars)
I gave him the money.
He gave me the balloons.
Matt shook his head.
We walked into Viva Young.
And all Hell and Pandemonium broke loose.
The girls squealed with delight as they, en masse, stampeded over almost knocking us down in the doorway.
‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! Gimmie Balloon!” fifteen voices yelled in unison as thirty arms reached out from bouncing girls.
“That’s what they’re for Little Darlings” I said as I untied the bundle and passed them out.
The girls dispersed back deep into the bar with their new prizes.
I felt some cold blue steel penetrating my head. I glanced in the direction of the source.
“Where MY Balloon? Goddam Chew!”
“Uh, Mama-San… You don’t want no balloon. I have something way more special for you that I picked up in Hong Kong.”
During our last Hong Kong port visit, anticipating such an emergency, I had purchased a semi-cheap but nice, lovely locket on a gold chain. I fished the little box out of my pocket and handed it to her.
She opened it, smiled a sweet smile at me, then caught herself and said, “Why you no gimme this before?”
“I was waiting for a ‘special’ occasion.”
“What special occasion?”
“I was waiting for the ‘special’ occasion of you being in a good mood.”
“I no in good mood now,” she said.
“Yeah, I know, but I got tired of waiting.”
“Well, ‘salamat’” (Filipino for ‘thank you’), she said. “It nice.”
“Walang anuman,” (You’re welcome) I said back. Two can play at this game.
Thinking this was the only opportune chance I would have, I broached the subject:
“I didn’t see New Girl. She here today?”
Instant frown: Just add Lance-the-Butterfly-Sailor and stir the shit.
“I told you! She off you limit!”
“Ah, come on Mama-San. I just want to talk to her. You know you have my heart.”
“Chew bull-chit-man! Yeah, she here. Go to look around you-self asshole.”
“What’s her name?”
“Thanks.” And I went off on my quest before Mama could say anything else.
I discovered ‘Lourdes’ at the back of the bar. Why she had not claimed her balloon, I have no idea. But I theorized she was still very new to this ‘business’ and quite shy.
There was an extra balloon bouncing off one of the hanging light fixtures. I rescued it and walked up to Lourdes.
“Hi. My name’s Lance,” I said as I handed her the red balloon.
She looked up at me through beautiful dark Filipina eyes, took the balloon tether from my hand and said quietly, “Tank you por balloon. Red my pav’rit color. My namb ‘Lourdes’.”
“Yes, I know. Nice to meet you Lourdes.”
“How you know my namb?”
“Mama-San told me.”
The mention of ‘Mama-San’ seemed to make her nervous, so I quickly changed the subject.
“Come sit with me at the bar, okay?”
“Uh… Okay” she said as I led her to the part of the bar furthest away from the prying eyes of Mama.
We sat down and I must have gotten lost in her for a moment. She fidgeted a bit. I finally found my voice and asked,
“Aren’t you supposed to say it?”
“Say what?” she asked.
“Say, ‘You buy me drink’?”
“Oh yeah. I por’git. You buy me drink?”
“Of course I will.”
Some things are universal.
In these ‘types’ of establishments, no matter what town, city, county, country, or continent, the ‘game’ never waivers:
The girls hustle way over-priced drinks which more often than not, especially in Olongapo, consist of weak tea—no booze—but cost three times as much as top-shelf scotch.
It’s just the little dance we all must do and I have always been just fine with the arrangement, never being one intent on breaking the rules nor upsetting the balance of power in the universe.
We chatted for an hour or so over several beers for me and several ‘scotch’s’ for her.
Eventually, she began to relax having come to the conclusion, I surmised, that I was not a monster and actually a decent guy to hang out with.
Sad to have to say, but most sailors and marines have a ‘I buy you one drink baby, then it’s I-pay-your-bar-fine and we go to the show.’ standing policy.
Your humble sailor is not such a man.
“’Lourdes’ is a lovely name.” I said, gently brushing her hair back from her cheek.
“Tank you. I like it.”
“Not your real name, is it Honey?”
“No,” she admitted. “I pic it outta book.”
“Kind of a ‘stage name’ eh?”
“Oh, yeah… Kinda. Yes.”
“Would you tell me your real name?”
“Mary-Lou. Mary-Lou Perucho.”
“I like that better,” I said. “May I call you ‘Mary-Lou’ from now on?”
“Yes, but not in pront of Mama-San.”
“Don’t worry. Your secret’s safe with me. Where you from Mary-Lou?”
Matt, Rogers, and I were in Viva Young. I had been smitten.
But the smite –her was elusive, so Matt and I retired to the pool tables. Me hoping to fleece him outta some beer money. He hoping for good conversation and Lance Good Wolf-Ticket talk.
We both got what we wanted, until…
Until Pain walked in.
Pain (his real name) was my roommate back when I was in BUD/s Class 140. Pain was a pain in the ass. He was a tow-head boy, weighing in at about 150. All attitude. Bad attitude. He reminded me of Peanut, without the good to outweigh the bad. I did not like his style.
One of My Girls, (yes they were ‘mine’—this was My Bar, wasn’t it?) brought me a beer and said,
“Hey! Dat guy just walk in, he Na-bee Seal.”
“Yes Honey. I know him.”
“He yor frien?”
“Nope. He is trouble, and thanks for the beer.”
Still holding my pool cue, I walked over to Pain.
“Hey Pain!” I said. “How’s it hangin’?”
“Hey Ya. Uh… don’t I know you from somewhere? Oh yeah; Buds. Back in ’86.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Class one forty. You were my roommate for a spell, until you got kicked out for smacking my other roommate upside the head.”
“Yeah he was an idiot.”
“Don’t think so. He was my Friend.”
“What was yer name? Mark… something or other… Mark..um…?”
“Yeah, that’s right: Marcom.”
“You rocked out didn’t ya?”
“Yeah, I rocked out. Got hurt. Apparently you made it. In SEALs.”
“Yeah, I didn’t rock out.”
“Good for you.”
“No Pain, I do not. What I want is for you to take your ass outta here. You see, this bar is for ‘Black Shoe Sailors’—Fleet Sailors. This is MY bar, and we don’t really want all you prima-donnas hangin’ out here. This is a private bar—my bar—So… mosey on on.”
“I go where I please. Fuck you!”
“Excuse me, but this ain’t your kind of place. This place is not big enuff to house your Navy SEAL ego; I suggest you amble on down to The California Club on Magsaysay. They have high enough ceilings for your big head, and lots of bar girls. You will be welcomed there.”
“You’re pissing me off.”
By this point, I had reversed my grip on the pool cue, and turned it into a baseball bat. Matt came up to my shoulder and whispered,
“Lance, don’t do it.”
I had forty pounds on Pain. I could take him with or without the pool stick.
Mama-San, ever astute, came up to me and said,
“Sailor Man, you may need to sit down.”
I said, “Mama-San, Not until this asshole leaves.”
She said, “Okay, but you gonna pix the furniture.”
Standing two heads high over him, I turned back to Pain, “You need to leave Son.”
“Maybe I will check out that California Club after all.” He said. And left.
The Jar Heads on the other side of the bar applauded. One said,
“Great job! Squiddy! That guy is an asshole. Seen him around town.”
“Thanks!” I said. Then yelled, “Hey! Mama-San! Bring me a beer! I just saw my life flash in front of me!” (Not really. I fear no man, but it makes for good prose, eh?)
Pain was actually a good guy. But an asshole. Certainly I can relate,
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.
Good Gawd! I love My Texas!
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.”