“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’)
So… Matt, Rogers, and I settled into the bar (After I had paid my respects to Mama-San).
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 pool, 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 serious philosophical discussion with a young bar girl who appeared to have a glass eye. Matt is a gentleman and this girl seemed to have warmed up to him. Rog and I were not gentlemen so we interrupted their conversation.
“Hey Matt! Rog here is 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 an artist. So I suppose this was to be expected: This Un-Naval-Like Bullshit Talk he could come up 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 Rogers here. He buyin’”.
“Sure,” he said, 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 bar girl.
“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 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 shift. They were all 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 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 would become useless for the rest of the evening.
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?!”