Back in ’89 halfway into my last WestPAC (Western Pacific Deployment) bobbing about in the Pacific, onboard the USS Frederick LST 1184, we had already spent much time in Subic Bay, Hong Kong, Guam, Korea, Fuk-Ya-Mama Japan, and possible some other ‘Ornamental’ ports I do not recall.
Well, we were steaming along in the South Pacific one day when word came down the pike that we had new orders to sail to Sydney.
“But why?” I asked the first ‘Old-Salty-Squiddy’ I could find.
“Some idiots from a tin can (destroyer) dropped a pallet of high explosives on top of the Great Barrier Reef. We have to go retrieve it before shit jumps off. That reef is some kind of fuckin’ national park or something.”
“Who the fuck knows? Who the fuck cares? We get to go to Australia! Australia! In Australia, they still LOVE us. There is this thing they do. It’s called ‘Rent-A-Sailor’ and you’ll see.”
“Hell you talking about? ‘Rent-A-Sailor’?”
“When we dock, there will be tons of women on the pier to greet us. They will all have paid real money to ‘host’ us while we are there. They love us. Maybe ‘cause we saved them from the Japs back in doubya doubya two.”
Hostesses for the Most of Us
“I see your point. Sounds great!”
“Just wait. You’ll see,” he said againbreathlessly. I must admit, his excitement was contagious.
Now, do not get me wong (wrong). I love Southern Pacific Eastern ‘Ornamental’ Women and this is well-documented, but I, we, all of us, were in the mood for a female change of scenery. We wanted to see some ‘Round-Eyes.’ And before anyone accuses me of being ‘racist’ you may want to do some research on my blog—this one—and then get back to me.
All that shit spake…
We turned the Freddy Southbound-and-Down toward Sydney. Estimated steaming time to Australia: three days.
We were all very excited.
I Went looking for the ship’s barber to get me gussied up…
Matt, Rogers, and I were in Viva Young, Olongapo City. I had been struck by The Thunderbolt. Rog was buying the beer for the next ten years. Matt was drawing a charcoal portrait on a cocktail napkin of a sweet, young lovely Filipina with a glass eye. Mama-San was not happy.
My Primary Problem:
SNAFU (‘Situation Normal: All Fucked Up’)
My Secondary Problem:
‘Thunderbolt Smitten Status’
Breaks down like this:
The ‘Smite-he’—Me—couldn’t get close enough to the ‘Smite-er—Her—she proved elusive, un-approachable, un-attainable, closely watched overby Mama-the Big-She-San.
Yes. It was all very confounding, convoluted, and complicated.
Matt and I retired to the pool tables. Me hoping to fleece him outta some beer money—He hoping for good conversation, free billiard lessons, and some Lance Good-Natured Wolf-Ticket Talk.
(Rog had declined my offer of a double-or-nothing eight-ball re-match)
But Matt was willing and ‘free’, as the Filipina ‘model’ for his napkin art had been compelled (by Mama-San) to taxi onto the runway.
He also knew I would take it easy on him and his wallet. I only truly enjoyed taking Rog’s money, no one else’s. Well, except for the occasional Jar-Head’s, even though the fleecing of ‘Marine-Sheeps’ could, and often did prove somewhat problematical, health-wise—my health-wise.
Matt and I both were getting what we wanted until…
Until Pain walked in.
Pain (his real name) was my roommate back when I was in BUD/s Class 140, 1986.
Pain was a pain in the ass.
He was a tow-head boy, weighing in at about one-hundred and fifty. One-hundred-fifty pounds of attitude. Bad attitude.
He reminded me ofPeanut.
Peanut sans the good to outweigh the bad. I did not appreciate his style.
Nor his presence.
One of My Girls, (yes they were ‘mine’—this was My Bar, wasn’t it?) brought me a beer and said,
“Hey! Dat guy jus’ walk in, he Naa-bee-steeel.”
“Yes Honey. I know him.”
“He yor pren?”
(Filipinas have some difficulty pronouncing the letter ‘F’)
“Nope. He’s trouble, and thanks for the beer.”
Still holding my pool cue, I walked over to Pain.
“Hey Pain!” I said. “How’s it been hangin’?”
“Whaaa?? Hey. Uh…Oh, don’t I know you from somewhere? Oh yeah. Buds. Back in ’86.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Class One-Forty. You were my roommate for about a week until I got you kicked out of the room for smacking my other roommate upside the head.”
“Yeah, you were a little snitch-bitch. An’ your other roommate was an idiot.”
“Don’t think so. He was my Friend.”
“What was yer name? Mark… Clark… 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.”
“Got ‘hurt’ eh? Whatever. 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—only. This is Our bar, and we don’t really want any prima-donnas hangin’ out here swillin’ beer and breathin’ air. This bar—MY Bar—is a private bar, so… mosey on The Fuck On.”
“I go where I please. Fuck you!”
“Excuse me, but this ain’t your kind of place. This joint’s not big e’nuff to house your inflated Navy Spec-War ego; I suggest you SEAL-Flop your fishy-smellin’ ass on down to The California Club. It’s close to Shit River on Magsaysay—can’t miss it—look for the neon that says, ‘Morons Welcome’. The ceilings have high enough clearance for your big head, and there’s lots of girls. You and your ego and your attitude and your money will be welcome there.”
“You’re pissing me off.”
By this point, I had unconsciously reversed my grip on the pool cue, turning it into a baseball bat. Matt came up to my shoulder and whispered,
“Uh… Lance, don’t do it.”
I had forty pounds on Pain. I could take him with or without the pool cue-turned-seal-smasher.
Mama-San, ever astute, came up to me and said,
“Sailor Man, you need sit down.”
I said, “Mama-San, Not until this asshole leaves.”
She said, “Okay, but you gonna pix the purniture.”
Standing two heads high over him, I turned back to Pain, “You need to leave Son.”
Apparently a light suddenly lit and he, making good use of his ‘situational awareness’ said, “Maybe I’ll check out that California Club after all.” And left.
The Jar Heads on the other side of the bar applauded. One said with a belly-laugh,
“Hoo-Ah Squiddy! That guy’s an asshole! Seen him around town.”
“Thanks,” I said, pitching my cue-stick to Matt, who clumsily failed to catch it, spilling his beer in the attempt as he watched the cue bounce off the deck.
I laughed at Matt then yelled, “Hey! Mama-San! Send me an’ Matt ah coupla beers! I just saw my life flash!”
(Not really. I fear no man, but it makes for good prose, eh?)
Pain was actually a decent enough guy.
In his way.
But still an asshole.
Certainly I can relate,
For the following night I vowed to focus on my ‘Thunderbolt/Mama-San Situation’.
We sucked down a few more beers.
Closed the bar.
The Marine Corps went to wherever it is that marines go (or belong)
Rog and Matt headed back to the ship. (Where sailors belong)
I went home with Mama-San. (Where I probably didn’t belong)
“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
The night before, we were subjected to a ‘briefing.’ (and a pecker check–you don’t wanna know)
Briefly this briefing consisted of a shit-load of ‘don’ts’:
Don’t do this; don’t do that. “This is a working port, and don’t get excited about liberty here.”
We had been at-sea for (to us) longer than Odysseus, and we really did not wanna hear this shit but, being ‘good sailors’ and desperate to get ‘on the beach’, we just nodded.
The main thing was this: “You cannot, under any circumstance, go to the British side of this Island.”
No worries, I thought, (for at that time the only Brits I had known had come across as rather ‘stuffy’.
Our captor went further:
“This, as I did say, is a working port: Three day duty.”
Yep, fully two thirds of the Ship’s company had to be on-board at any given time. Not to mention, as this was a working port, we could not leave the ship until the Work Day was done: i.e., sixteen hundred hours.
Diego Garcia was beautiful! Right out of ‘South Pacific’ the movie. I was jazzed by all of it. I hit the beach! Went to explore the Naval Base there. Found it wanting (Not my idea of Hemingway). I then swerved onto the Merchant Marine obscure dock and here is where I found my home for the next thirty days.
It was untouched by modern anything.
There was a small bar/restaurant and A beach. Some serving wenches, and palm trees.
Anyhow, I had this post develop in my head. A post about good and bad. A post about optimism and pessimism. A post about Human Decency.
Then I promised me: I Promised me I would not post it because it might sound too preachy, but when we fall away from stating the obvious, because “it has been said too many times before,” well then we forget. And dammit! Some of us need reminding from time to time.