When I was fourteen or fifteen and living in NE Texas, ‘Famine’ County to be more precise, I used to frequently cross the border. Not Mesico. No, Oklahoma. Yep. Go figger.
You see, back-in-the-day (Early Seventies), the drinking age got lowered to 18, mainly because it just was not fitting for a boy to go to Vietnam and not even be able to buy a beer ere he got there. Time enough for that once he got there, but you see, it became a matter of principle.
Well, my ‘group’ took advantage of that. You see, it was very difficult to tell a teenager’s age: I mean,
“How do you know he ain’t eighteen? He looks twelve, but hell! Ok, serve it up.”
And even better: In Oklahoma, well, they just did not give a shit. If you had money and could reach the bar, well, there you go.
OK, enough preamble and background. Early one morning (after about 0100hrs) my buddies and I, after having closed down the bars in Commerce (Texas), decided we were not drunk enough. So, natch, we drove to The Border, as I said: Oklahoma. Our mission: To hustle Pool and make the next day’s beer money. Our favorite hang was a place just ‘cross da river. A place who’s name escapes me, but trust me: it was famous. There is a very long, very dark, very narrow bridge across the Red River. If one could successfully navigate that, being drunk… well, you needed a drink.
Now, do not mistake me, this establishment was always ‘closed’ by the time we usually arrived at thereabout 0200hrs, but I knew the guy behind the ‘Speak-Easy’ window and I knew the password: “Joe sent me.”
Good to go.
They legally closed the bar at 0100hrs, but then remained open until first light. If one arrived around 0200hrs, one could shoot pool for four or five and then migrate to the back room where the crap tables were. I knew all the drills.
My gang and I sauntered in, bought some beers and Bob and I proceeded to ‘hustle’ pool. For beers. ONLY.
We were already drunk; we did not need to hustle beers. We wanted money for the crap game. Bob and I spent the better part of two hours hustling beers, and had pretty much drained the joint, when this dude drops his quarter on the table. He was long and lankly and had his right hand missing. Yep. He was ‘handicapped” Errr… handless. I nudged Bob and said, “This chump cannot beat me. At pool.”
And, of course, I was right, but… damn! He was good. He used his ‘stub’ as a bridge and shot a mean Eight-Ball. I beat him outta bout a case of Coors. He got pissed and walked by me:
“You done stepped on my foot,” he said.
“No Sir, I did not, but if you think I did, well, I’m sorry…”
“YOU done STEPPED on my FOOT!”
Bob took me aside along with my other entourage; Peanut, Gene, and Jessie (a big black kid who had played star halfback for the Honey Grove Warriors back in the day—yes—he was older, and I did notice him putting razor blades between his fingers)
“Many-Feet” Peanut said, “That there one-armed man gonna beat you to some death with that nub.”
“Bullshit!” I said.
“No bullshit. Go ahead; hide an’ watch.”
To be continued….
He beat me ’bout to death with that nub, just as Peanut foresaw.
Wish I had ‘foresaw’. Dem Okies…well.. they some tough sons ah bitches, all I gotta say.
I like things to be linear. So we rejoin our “hero” just after his Denouement… Or perhaps, ‘Epiphany’.
So she led me to a car and we all piled in. I say ‘we all’ simply because there were suddenly three of us. Me, HER, and a smallish blonde. I remember thinking I had seen this movie before, but this time it came with a twist, I guess. I have to guess, as the rest of the evening (early morning?) is fuzzy in my memory.
After about twenty minutes. (I am once again, estimating here; could’ve been an hour or more. Or less.) After about ‘twenty’ minutes we arrived at a house (could have been an apartment). SHE took me inside and led me straight-away to a bed… room. If memory serves, we had sex. Violent sex. (Not ‘violent’ violent. Let’s just call it ‘intense.’) SHE was at least six foot and change and, as I did report earlier, ‘Big-Boned.” I swear, I saw my life’s movie flash as she covered me and had her way. (And of course, me mine)
As we lay there ‘after’ in someone else’s bed, she remarked, “Well, that should keep your self-winding watch going for a few days.”
I had to laugh, just as I drifted off.
The next morning I awoke with the sun singeing my eyes from a casually placed window (What’s wrong with these people?). I could smell bacon. I rolled over and looked at my watch: 0630. I had a start; then realized it was Saturday and I did not have ‘duty’ on my ship. I could go back to sleep, un-worried. But, oh no! SHE was stirring. (So, who was cooking bacon? I remember thinking)
“Oh. You’re awake?” She said.
“Uh, yeah. Kinda,” was all I could muster. Where am I? Who are you? (Not a proper question, I realize, but then, I was hung over and still groggy)
“I am the woman to be named later,” she said, poking me in the ribs. (Which hurt for some reason).
“I see. I rolled over to face her.” She was, indeed: Beautiful. Long dark brown hair, dark eyes, and mystery, too much mystery in fact. I was at this point, all ‘mystery-ied’ out. I was tired. I needed Gidget. Or perhaps Mary Poppins, or even Samantha Stevens…
You don’t remember my name?” She asked after lighting a cigarette.
“To be stupidly honest, no I don’t.”
“No matter. I am called ‘Layla’. Ring any bells?” (I wish I were making this up)
I’m thinking now that I had just fallen into Dante’s Inferno.
“Uh. No. Should bells be ringing?”
“So… You’re a Sailor? Yes?”
“Yes. And what are you? And are you from around here?”
“Not from around here. I’m just visiting my cousin. She is the one cooking breakfast.”
“Yeah. I can smell bacon.”
“Good nose. I like that in a man. Have you an appetite?”
“From some memory of last night, I’d have to say ‘yes’.”
“Hahahahah! Yep. You do, Sailor Man. Yep, you do.”
“So, if you’re not from here. Where are you ‘from’, and what do you do?”
“I’m from Wisconsin. I work as a bartender. I’m also a bouncer, when the need is needed. Oh, and I love to ride Harleys.”
Perfection, I thought. Now what Cowboy? Shit. Here I am again…
I had ‘some leave-days-on-the-books’ and seriously considered at that moment that I needed to take them and head home to Texas to get a re-start on my physic saki… (Well, spelling ain’t never been my thing, but you know what I mean here.)
I mean, I was still re-‘bound’ for glory. But I did have some time, eh? Didn’t I?
As mentioned in the previous post, Viva Young was a tiny joint about a block or two off Magsaysay Boulevard. Upon entering, immediately on the left was ‘Mama San’s ‘Office,’ which was simply an enclosed counter with an ancient cash register, a small table lamp, a perpetually over-flowing ashtray, and a counter sign which read: “No Credit.” Every bar or club had a ‘Mama San’—‘Manager’ to put it into Western Parlance. I had a bit of a history with this Mama San. We were roughly the same age and found each other mutually attractive. She did volunteer work for the mayor of Olongapo and was quite astute. She wanted a career in government. But first, she had a bar to run and girls to manage. In this regard she was all cold business.
When on liberty in Olongapo I generally spent the night with Mama San. She lived with her mother and a sister and a brother and a few children in a fairly decent (though small) house about a mile from Viva Young. She was supporting the entire family and was never ‘hesitate’ to hit me up for contributions to her domicile. I knew ‘the score’ and happily donated to her cause. What did I need money for anyway? We had a convenient relationship and genuinely liked each other. And to my mind, she was doing good work.
Running the length of the bar was the ‘stage’ or ‘cat walk’. Or picture a runway, similar to what one might find in a very low-rent fashion show. Bordering this runway on three sides was a narrow counter top: narrow-minded and horse-shoe-shaped. The open end faced the door and Mama San’s watchful eye. Bar stools (ancient and uncomfortable) finished the Spartan scene. The bar girls would line up on the runway and dance to the music from the equally ancient jukebox. Yes, this was best unflatteringly described as a ‘Meat Market’. But then, that was Olongapo in 1989. Matt, Rogers, and I knew all the girls. (Just not in the Biblical sense). I suspect some were under age. If you’d ask one hundred bar girls in Olongapo where they were from, you’d get one hundred same pat answers:
“I from da Pra’bince (Province). I make money so go to college.”
I never met a single gal (see how easily I throw in some Texan vernacular to cover up the horrible reality?) who told me she wasn’t actually from Olongapo. Nope, these were all ‘country gals’ with aspirations–from ‘The Province–the true aspiration was to marry a U.S. Serviceman and get the hell out of the Philippines. And who could blame them? Many a young Sailor or Marine, after having his first sexual encounter fell in love with a Filipina and did fulfill her dream. They would marry and the new bride would move to San Diego. Within a few months the rest of the family would be sent for. This was called the ‘Filipino Pipeline’. Sadly, more often than not, once secured with U.S. Citizenship and the rescue of her family, the new bride would divorce her Sailor or Marine and make her way into the American Dream, leaving the husband wondering what the hell had gone wrong.
I never felt sorry for the cuckolds. I was a cruel son of a bitch back then, and secretly, as a perpetual con and huckster, I was always for the Filipinas.
Actually everything always went wrong with such agreements.
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?!”