This is a ‘Sea Story’ Albeit, A ‘Rare’ True One Here Goes!
Better Batten Down Them Hatches!
Just to get Y’all ‘In-The-Mood’
Irish Rovers-Drunken Sailor
Cred: Irish Rovers
As We (USS Callaghan, DDG 994)
Were steaming out of San Dog Naval Base Just beginning our World Cruise, escorting The USS Kitty Hawk (A ‘Bird Farm—Aircraft Carrier—To ‘No Fuk’ Virginia, Naval Station)
As we were just making the turn to La Jolla, we all spied a fishing boat steaming at full speed aiming at our stern. “WTF?” Our Skipper slow’d down The Callaghan. Finally Full stop. As a matter of fact.
Cap’n Allowed this fishing boat to pull up at our stern. Fishing boat came up along.
To everyone’s astonishment, some young ‘Squiddy’ (Navy Parlance for A Young idiot fresh out of boot-camp)Was on-Board
Nathan Evans – There once was a ship that put to sea
With the assistance of us, The Callaghan-Crew, and the fishermen we managed to get the young idiot on-board. Pretty Certain He was still drunk’r Than Cooter Brown We continued our freshly began voyage.
And Pretty certain ‘Capn’s Mast was in his very near future.
Turn’s out, our Capt’n was lenient and let him off with just the ‘Blue-Plate Special’
Three months restriction
Reduction in rank
Six days bread an water in the brig
Fun fact, as Ship’s Armorer, I was in charge of the brig. Bad News for him, as Having recently rocked out Of SEAL Training, I did not have a sense of humor when it came to Black-Shoe Naval Idiots
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 though I was never what one might call ‘A Hardcore Country Music Fan’,
I was feeling nostalgic. So I bought me some Nocona’s (NO, I did not varnish them), a Stetson, Wrangler’s, some shirts with snaps, a string tie, and off I went, Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places, or in this case, ‘Place’.
The name of which escapes me, but it was along the lines of Gilley’s in Pasadena Texas, albeit much lesser.
I mean Gilley’s had five bars in their bar and the largest dance floor in Texas. This joint 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 errant long neck beer bottles.
What a gyp!
T’would serve my purposes, however, and sate my lower expectations at any rate. I mean, we are talking Southern California here folks, after all.
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 like Norman Rockwell had dipped his brush on them. There were also some lariats, a few saddles strategically placed against some 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 head said.
There was, as I said, one bar. And Immediately to the right of this bar…
(a respectable looking bar, if I do grudgingly say so, 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 Urban Cowgirl Beach Babe 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 always held a special place in my heart and in my ears.
“I ain’t Rich, But Lord I’m Free”
Immediately in front of the Bar was that dance floor, (No sawdust, but that could be grudgingly forgiven).
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 or even an air hockey table. Certainly no mechanical bull. Honky-Tonk Travesty!
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; 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 ‘Cowgirl Watched’ as the place began to fill up. Along ‘bout 1900hrs, the place was semi-jumping (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, I sashayed over to her and asked for a ‘daince’, (actually tipping my hat! Yes! Yes! I know!) trying ever so hard to establish that I weren’t no ‘Coke-a-Cola Cowboy’, but a real ‘un. From Texas.
Lance As Cowboy (The one on the right don’t look much like the one what shot at me), But then, that is another story, ain’t it?)
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 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 as 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.
Better Watch Out for That Gravity Storm! It Don’t Give No Warnin’ Sigh Or… ‘Be Yet Still My Beating Heart’ And Yes! Yes! I Know! I Need To Seek Council. Bin There–Did That! It Didn’t Take–Smallish *Sigh*
“Petty Officer Marcom! Your Fifty Cals are Rusty!”
U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Third Class Daniel J. Mark. Cleared for release by ALBG PAO, LCDR Jeff Bender.
Marco The Sailorman
I had to admit. Yes they were. I had tried so hard to keep ahead of the rust, but here I found myself on the leeward side of the second half of a six-month, ‘round-the-whurl-West Pacific Deployment’, and somewhere just off the coast of Somalia.
Yes, rust was my enemy, certainly never my friend—the machine guns were always mounted while we (The USS Callaghan DDG 994, full cast and crew) were Haze-Gray and Underway.
Yes, always mounted and underway:
Haze-Graying, even then
My Guns were always supposed to be… somewhere upon the sea… this is what they were purchased for…
And subject to rust. Rust Relentless. Relentless She Be: That Sea. That Salt of the Fucking Sea
My Moby Dick-lessness! How could I not keep Rust off my guns?
Freud certainly would have had fun with me
(Sadly, now I know why)
My professional life was to be found somewhere rusting in those machine guns.
And that rust you see, that rust occupied a great deal of my daily routine.
The Navy had a solution though. She had provided canvas covers to cover those guns and make them safe from rust. Alas, those canvas covers had seen better days, probably back when Pearl Harbor was just an ordinary Naval Base that no one had ever heard of.
But rust is relentless and timeless.
While scrubbing the Indian Ocean rust off’n my fifty-cals one morning I hatched a plan. Knowing full well we were soon to pull into Mombasa Kenya, after so many month at sea, I conspired to save my money:
Once in Mombasa, I would smuggle one of the moth infected, salt- digested, jig saw’d, Swiss Cheese, ‘holy’ canvas shards off the ship. I would rent a taxi, find me a young child, show him my smuggled ‘prize’, ask him to direct me somewhere, where I could find and nickel and dime (I did not have much money then, not un-life-like now) find a leather shop in Mombasa, present to the leather-maker my Holy Canvas, My Shroud, My Naval Career, and demand, (for US Dollars), that he make me four such more yet new and brand new.
And This is exactly what I did, and to the amazement and astonishment of my Master Chief Petty Officer and my Department Head (almost a Navy Commander… he kind of looked like JFK, now that I think on it. I did not like particularly like him, but I respected him. Hell, he reminded me of all the things I could have been if I had joined the Nav when I was twelve instead of twenty-eight (Different story. Sorry)
The next time they inspected my Fifty Cals, they were pristine! (They did not take notice nor time to notice that the canvas covers were not exactly Haze-Gray-Naval Gray. No, more like Third-World-Rustic, with just a tiny bit of water buffalo…left over…but Goddamn sure water and sea salt proof.
And I was so desirous that they did NOT notice, but my Master Chief did notice, yet, never ever noticing nor voicing his ‘inner thoughts’ in front of what he referred to as “Shit Birds” — ‘Officers’ — Never let on.
Master Chief never, ever let out his truth thoughts in front of Shit – Birds. This was his genius.
And I should have been cognizant of this, yet I was so somewhat giddy after my .50 Cals had finally passed inspection, that I did not stop to think on that anymore. “Not even Master Chief had seen through my ruse” Yeah, Rite!
I was drunk with my own cleverness and lying back on my back in my rack, curtain drawn, congratulating me.
(Now, you must realize how the Military Mind works. I was my Ship’s Armor All–Armorer– IN Charge of All The Ship’s Small Arms! .225 Cal to .50 Cal. If it took two men to lift, wasn’t mine. But one-man-band? Yep! I was the shit! I was a Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class! Freshly rocked out of SEAL Training (twice now, but who counts these sorts of thing? I suppose I do) and trying to retain what little was left of my pride and my so-fifty-caliber-called-life.)
And I loved and Respected My Master Chief. Did not ever want to become an embarrassment to him, nor to my Fellow Gunner’s Mates who worked on the “Big Guns”. (Those ones what ‘bullets’ took two and a half-men to lift)
And even more important, (anyone who has ever ‘Served’ will know this), the Military is Run On Fear:
Well, as I was lying on my back in my middle rack right before Taps with my little blue ‘privacy’ curtain drawn back when someone jerked that sucker back.
Along with my reverie.
Master Chief Anderson!
MY MASTER CHIEF
“Son, tell me where you found those brand new gun covers.”
Trying to lie on my side and find an elbow to lean to, I half-coughed out, feigning sleepy-eyed ignorance,
“Master Chief, I had them made while we were in Mombasa.”
(There are people one may lie to in life, but, A Master Chief Petty Officer in the US Navy is not one found amongst those people. Not if one wishes life beyond that moment of sweet deception)
“I see”, was all he said, as he yanked my curtain back shut, thus leaving me alone with my various and sundry.
I did not sleep that night. For you see, I knew I had broken Naval Regs by doing something not-in-the Naval-Seaman’s-Bible–The Blue Book–The book, inches thick as a brick, “The Book” I had been made to almost memorize while at Recruit Training Command, i.e. boot camp.
I had broken the rule.
In the Nav, there is a sea sailor preamble, most requisite when one wants to recount a story of ‘when ships were made of wood and men were made of iron’… “Back when Moses was a pup, and this is a no-shitter” This validates and is a ritual never broken. In other words, one never breaks the rule.
Sometime mid-morning the next day, I was summoned to the berth/office of The Department Head of my Division, Lt. Commander ‘Kennedy’.
Shitting bricks is too trite.
I was nervous.
I gave a hearty rap on the bulkhead door as I was trained to do in boot camp…
“Petty Officer 3rd Class Marcom Sir!”
“I know who you are Lance; sit down.”
(What??? Lance??? Sit Down???)
Mouth agape I sat down, speechless
“Son, Master Chief Anderson tells me you went out on your own, designed, commissioned, smuggled off a prototype, and paid for, with your own money, those .50 Cal Gun Covers. Is this true?”
“Yes, uh, yessir,” I stammered.
“Well, that shows some fine initiative. How much did you pay Son?”
“Un Sir. Doesn’t matter…. I just, well, the .50 Cals, you know SIR, cost ten-thousand dollars each, and I thought…rust….an…”
“How much did you pay?!”
“250 Dollars Sir.”
Without saying a word he opened a little three-lock-box (OK; I made that up. It was only a one-lock-box) that he had in a drawer, carefully opened it, and proceeded to hand me two-hundred and fifty bucks.
I sat there, dumb founded, a moment too long, still in shock, looking at the bills in my hand…
“Petty Officer Marcom! “
“Huh…Uh, Huh… Sir?”
Jumping up, knocking my chair over, some tears welling in my eyes,
As I saluted him and abruptly left his quarters, quite in haste.
And thus I had survived yet another day in MY Beloved Navy.
And Just As a Reminder Kids:
Don’t Rain on my Parade: I have enuff Rain for All
*And this just once more a rough draft, full of error, so be kind. Trust me: there is no harsher critic of me than me. I sweat commas.
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.
Why? I don’t know. Or… perhaps I do know. It grows tiresome for most. (especially former Girlfriends/wives) This I know. I also know I have to write what I remember and know, and what I feel/felt, and knew. I recently re-watched “Alien”, a movie that kinda, sorta defined what I ‘was’ in the Sinai Desert in 1979. Not sure how to explain that one… but, yet… Sigourney Weaver…
Anyhow, I write about women. I write about women, and my relationships with women, because I love women. Most of them don’t love me, but none of them (them ‘wimmens’) can ever say they were ever bored with me…
Point is: I love women. I write about my experiences with women because my experiences with all the women in my past have made… me… a feminist.
I love the way they look. (And yes! I love the way they ‘cook’–metaphor–I am the ‘best cook’)
I love the way they dress.
I love the way they un-dress. I
love the way they talk. I love the way they walk.
I love the way they incite. I love the way they excite. I love the way they dance. I love the way they romance. I love the way they taste. I love the way they smell. I love the way they mostly… don’t tell.
And most of all, I love the way they piss me off,
(And drive me crazy.)
Yes. I love women.
The way they Made Me: Made me who I am.
And I like that.
I like this man called ‘Lance’, that a woman created in me
Him I like instinctively (No Choice)
But, what the hell?!
“That’s what comes from too much pills and liquor.”