Here is how Bar Fines are designed to work in Olongapo:
You pay the girl’s bar fine to the Mama San
You get a receipt.
You take your ‘rental’ to your room.
You fuck her.
Sometimes you feed her first.
Thusly sated, satisfied, you cast her away.
Here is how bar fines are not designed to work:
You do NOT Lose it. (Your receipt)
You broke it; you bought it.
You hand over your receipt to your rental so she can leave you.
Well, that is the short version.
The thing is, in Olongapo, Bar Girls walking about on Magsaysay Blvd, alone, without a bar fine receipt are considered in the eyes of the law to be ‘common’ street walkers. And subject to arrest.
And thrown under the jail.
So what was the very first thing I did with Mary-Lou Perucho?
I handed over my Bar Fine Receipt.
“Here ya go Darling. Put this in your pocket. Don’t lose it. Now shall we go to my hotel?”
“Sure.” She said nervously.
So we went to my cheap hotel. I had no intention of having sex with her. I was just lonely as I have mentioned. I just wanted to talk with her. Get to know her (not in that biblical sense—in that humane sense—I was lonely and she reminded me of an old High School sweetheart…)
I had been drinking (duh), so I excused myself after I had parked her in front of the television. I went to the head, took a piss. Came back. She was gone.
She had left me.
Guess she thought I was gonna try to fuck her.
( I had no such intentions)
But who could blame her for leaving?
I weighed in at two-hundred pounds and change.
She was, soaking wet, about ninety eight.
If I had fucked her, I might have broken her.
But apparently caution being the better part of smart told her to bug out.
And I had given her, her pass:
The Bar Fine Receipt.
It made me sad that I had not expressed well enough my benevolent propensity.
Of course, like the asshole I was, I went back to Viva Young the next afternoon and complained to Mama San. I wanted my money back. My rental had left me.
Mama San was not amused, but in the spirit of good customer service, she fired Mary Lou.
This was NOT the outcome I wanted.
So now was I not just an asshole, but a stellar asshole.
I would have to search out Mary Lou and attempt to make things right.
All I truly wanted was a pretty girl to lay down beside me and hold my hand and listen to my stories…
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 fix 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,
When last we left our Boys they had arrived at Viva Young not unlike victorious Roman Legionaries returning from Gaul—The Conquering Heroes—welcomed with gleeful squeals of joy and happiness by the Girls.
A little more detail on Viva Young The Establishment, and more than a little more detail on ‘Mama-San’ is in order here.
Upon first 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.
(Yes we were ‘Fuck Buddies’)
We were roughly the same age and found each other mutually attractive. She was tall for a Filipina, just a little bit chunky with shoulder length reddish brown hair which she kept in a semi-perm. Or perhaps it kept her; maybe that was its natural state. Dark brown eyes and the ‘Ornamental’ version of The ‘Shonnie’ Voice—semi-coarse and gruff.
She did volunteer work for the mayor of Olongapo and was quite well-read, savvy, and politically 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.
“You gonna pay my bar fine?” Were some of the first ‘personal’ words she said to me on the night I ‘proposed’ to her, which was what seemed like eons before this particular port visit.
Some clarification: Subic Bay is a ‘working port’ not a ‘liberty port’. It is just like being in San Dog, only ‘with benefits.’
But still a working port.
Hence, during this particular Westpac deployment, we would find ourselves in Subic Bay every month or so ostensibly for resupply, but mainly because we were schlepping about six hundred US Marines around the South Pacific.
The Frederick LST 1184 is what is known as a ‘Gator Freighter.’ The ‘LST’ stands for ‘Tank Landing Ship.’ And yes I know the acronym is ass-backwards—‘Landing Ship, Tank’—My Navy is kind of Dyslexic.
Anyway, our primary purpose, our only purpose, our whole raison d’être is to ferry Marines about, dropping them and their AAV’s ‘Amphibious Assault Vehicles’ off at various beaches throughout the region.
“You call. We haul.”
That is the mantra of the Amphib Navy.
So we’d drop off the kids, head back out to sea and return a few days later to pick up all the ones who had not drown in the surf-zone. And sadly, I am not joking. We lost a half-dozen or so during that deployment.
Marines really cannot swim for shit and are not benefitted by the ‘Drown-Proofing’ training they teach at BUD/s (SEAL Boot-Camp, which if you recall, your humble author had been through.)
It’s Great Fun!
I Did All this Shit!
“The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday”
Back to Mama:
Upon our first meeting, we were working on our mutual attraction. Using all my debonair wily Texan/Sailor charms, I broached the subject of “Let me take you away from all this.” (After closing time of course)
“You pay my bar fine. OK?”
“But you’re Mama-San. How can you have a bar fine?”
“You pay bar fine.”
For the uninitiated, if one wishes the solitary company and undivided attention of a working bar girl, one must make payment to the Mama-San: the girl’s ‘bar fine.’ Call it a ‘handling fee’ if you must be so callous.
And while I am on THAT subject, allow me to inform you, I never paid any bar fines of any young girls for sex. I did not believe in it. There is much I will explain in future installments regarding this, but for now, suffice it to say that this sailor is an Honorable Man.
Bobbie Gentry – (1969)
Street Cred for Vid: kelly heisler
But Mama-San is a different matter because she was a woman, not a girl.
I knew ‘the score’ and she kept the score. I happily donated to her cause to keep her score card to the positive and in the black.
What did I need money for anyway? We had a convenient relationship and we were genuinely fond of each other as far as it went. And to my mind, she was doing good work. She was ‘Mother’ to her girls and sincerely looked out for their wellbeing. She could spot a potentially abusive sailor or marine in an instant and would never allow same to leave the bar with one of her girls.
And if by some chance she needed help with showing some asshole the door, there were the three of us Fast Freddy Sailors and the regular marines to provide assistance, not that Mama-San ever really needed it.
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. Strings of lights hung precariously from the ceiling. 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 ‘89.
Matt, Rogers, and I knew all the girls. (Just not in the Biblical Sense). I suspect knew 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 lil gal (see how easily I throw in some Texan Bullshit Vernacular to gloss over the horrible reality?) who told me she wasn’t actually from Olongapo. Nope, these were all ‘country gals’ with aspirations for higher education brought from ‘The Province’. Their 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: Mama, Daddy, Baby Sis, Baby Bro, Big Sis, Big Bro, real cousins, faux cousins, best friends, et cetera. This was known as 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 headlong into The American Dream, never once looking back and 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 anyway.
Actually everything always went wrong with such arrangements.
Well wrong for the sailor/marine.
But right for the ‘Girl-from-da-Pra’bince.’
The Girl from Ipanema
Artists: Astrud Gilberto, João Gilberto and Stan Getz
Street Cred for Vid: catman916
“If you hold sand too tightly in your hand it will run through your fingers.”
–Joni Mitchell (Telegram she sent from Crete to Graham Nash in CA, 1970)
“You can’t hide the thunderbolt. When it hits you, everybody can see it. Christ Man! Don’t be ashamed of it, some men pray for the thunderbolt. You’re a very lucky fellow.”
– Calo (‘The Godfather’)
Matt, Rogers, and I settled into the bar–after I had paid my respects to Mama-San.
“Mama! Where you been all my life?” I yelled, pulling her up from her chair and kissing her hard on the lips.
She managed to untangle herself from my affections and pushed me away. “You go to sit down and spend some money Sailor-Man,” she said gruffly, trying to conceal the smile that was betraying her true feeling.
Since it was still relatively early and the joint pretty much dead, Rog and I decided to shoot some pool.
Now I must tell you, gentle readers, I am a pool hustler, and Rog was a gambler.
Good for me.
Bad for him.
After about an hour of eight ball, Rog owned me all the beer in Olongapo and his First Born. Wasn’t really interested in the First Born (I had seen the baby pictures and the baby dipped snuff just like his daddy)
So I told him to keep the First Born, but get busy with the beers. We sat back down at the bar next to Matt who was in some kind of deep philosophical discussion with a very petite young bar girl who appeared to have a glass eye.
Matt is a gentleman and this girl had warmed up to him.
Rog and I were not gentlemen so we interrupted their conversation.
“Hey Matt! Rog here’s buyin’ the beer for the next ten years. Name your poison.”
“I’d like a glass of wine,” Matt said softly.
“What?!” Rog and I both exclaimed in unison.
Matt was The Artist. So I suppose this was to be expected: This Un-Naval-Like Bullshit Talk would come out the side of his neck from time to time.
“Mama-San!” I yelled over my shoulder. “Ya got any Pinto Greegee-oh?”
“Goddamn chew!” she yelled back. “Go to fuck you!” I turned to Matt, “Sorry Buddy. Fresh out. How ‘bout a beer? On Rog here. He be buyin’”.
“Sure,” he said softly, not even looking at us.
“Oh shit Rog,” I said. “Matt here done gone off into ‘That Place’ again.”
I glanced over at Matt, now busily drawing on a cocktail napkin what appeared to be a rather flattering portrait of the girl. She had placed her head on his shoulder and her arm around his waist.
“Yeah, Rog. I suppose yer right.”
Rogers and I traded wolf tickets for an hour or so, and then aimed our affections at some Marines who had recently shown up. Things were about to grow unpleasant when the regular shift of girls came strolling in. This stopped the impending war between the Navy and the Marine Corps as the music got loud and the girls took to the runway.
I knew all the girls on the evening shift. They were my friends. But I spotted a girl I did not know. ‘Spotted’ is probably not the right word. ‘Witnessed’ (Think ‘Baptist Revival’ here) might be more appropriate. She was the spitting image of my high school sweetheart. (No, I wasn’t really that drunk).
OK, not exactly the spitting image but let us say the Ornamental Version of a spitting image.
I just had to have some ‘chat’ with her.
And By God, I would.
I became useless for the rest of the evening.
I have spent far too much time in the Far East.
This will be continued…
Right here:Scroll to the Below:
A girl walks into a bar.
I went over to Mama-San, “Hey who’s the new girl?”
“What new girl?”
“The one with the long brown hair,” I said.
“Goddam-chew! They all have long brown hair. Where you think you are Sailor-Boy, Malibu?”
“No. I mean that girl,” I said, pointing.
“Oh ‘That Girl’” she said. “She’s new, and don’t bother her.”
“Yes, I know she’s new. That’s my point, for fuck sake.”
“Leave her alone. She off-you-limits.”
“Bullshit off-limits. She reminds me of someone,” I said.
“Don’t we all? That’s what we do here. We sell the memories. We in the ‘She-reminds-me-of-someone’ sellin’ memory business. But she, that one, she off-you-limits. No for sale.”
“I don’t want to buy her; I just wanna talk to her.”
“Go-to-Fuk-Chew! You want talk? Talk me! You butterfly.” She huffed back toward her desk.
“Butterfly?” I yelled at her back.
She turned on her heel, “You butterfly. You float from flower to flower.”
I stared at ‘New Girl’ while wondering how I was going to get around Mama-San…So I could have my
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?”
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.”