Part Four of a Sailor’s Scholarly Series on U.S. Naval History in The South Pacific: PAIN

“I Yam Wot I Yam”

***

Let’s Review:

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:

Mama-San

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 over by 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 of Peanut.

***

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.”

“Wanna beer?”

“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,

Being same.

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)

***

To be continued…

Previously:

Part Three of a Sailor’s Scholarly Series on U.S. Naval History in The South Pacific

The Thunder-Bolt:

“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.”

“Doan worry none,” Rog replied. “He’ll snap outta it.”

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.

Thunderbolt!

Boom!

I just had to have some ‘chat’ with her.

And By God, I would.

Or die.

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:

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

Happy Talk

From the 1958 film version of SOUTH PACIFIC

***

Previously:

Part Two of a Sailor’s Scholarly Series on U.S. Naval History in The South Pacific

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.)

Twice.

“Drown Proofing”

It’s Great Fun!

***

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.”

I paid.

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.

Fancy

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.

Ever.

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)

***

Part One Here:

Part Three coming soon.

Should I Go For It?

Wad’yall Say?

ShouldI go for it?

‘Could’ I go for it?

(I ‘could’ and ‘would’ really use the ten bucks!)

Enthusiastic Homer Says

“Hell-To-The-Hell Yeah!

Will definitely require some strong, mighty resolve and determination. Not to mention uncommon valor and courage…

And…

Some

REINFORCEMENTS!

So I sent out an urgent ‘Mayday! Mayday!’ to Three-Star General Woodbridge requesting he Muster his Marines:

Through a secure internet line I was able to listen in ‘real-time’ as The General briefed his men:

“Men, I’m not gonna Bullshit you, nor sugar-coat this. We are tasked with a very dangerous mission, fraught with peril. But I know you are up to the job. Many Men will die; not return alive, but remember this: No man left behind.”

Our mission is simple in concept, but will be difficult in execution. We have received a recon film from our man on the ground. He bravely risked his life in obtaining this intelligence, so pay close attention.”

Additionally, Sergeant Ihrke will be passing out a complete ‘Mission Objectives Packet’ containing still photographs and the most up-to-date intelligence available regarding the current situation on the ground.”

“Sergeant, you may proceed.”

Sergeant Shannon Ihrke USMC

Study all these items carefully, closely, and completely, with nothing but ‘attention to detail’ and the successful completion of the Mission Objective in the forefront of your minds.”

Succinctly put, our sole Mission is to Clean-Up This Shithole, taking as few casualties as Our Almighty General ‘Chesty’ Puller, will allow.”

(“RIP, Oh Great One”)

“Wheels up at zero five hundred hours.”

“OK. That’s it then!”

Now, let’s go Get Some!

“Fall Out!”  

Recon Film:

MUST STUDY THIS ONE FIRST MEN

Street Cred for Vid: Lance Marcom

***

Items Contained in the Mission Objectives Packet For Your Perusal Below.

But Be Thee Forewarned, The ‘Packet’ Was Compiled By a Moron: Possessing Not Much ‘Intelligence’ for an ‘Intelligence Officer.”

Not Sure If Any Value To The Marines

Oh My Goodness! We Got Ourselves a Natural Disaster!

Yep! A Natural Disaster!

Heavy casualties taken

But we were not yet done

We stacked them up as cordwood

‘Til the Battle could be Won!

A Brief Interlude To Take You From The Carnage,

If Only For A Moment:

A War Poem”

By Lance A. Marcom

I Knocked a beer off my chair

It spilt everywhere

I wept

I cried

I did not die

(Just opened a new one)

And Carried On!

And Was Happy Again.   

We Captured A Spy Who Had Stealthily Penetrated In Behind Our Lines.

We Executed Him On The Spot

Having Been Thusly Compromised, General Woodbridge Ordered We Fortify Our Defenses.

We Did So

With A Bigger Wall

Coming Under Heavy Artillery Fire

We Were Forced To Hunker-In-Our-Bunker

The Enemy Was Amassing Large Numbers of Troops For A ‘Tet Offensive’

When It Finally Came

We Doggedly Held Our Ground.

And Punished Them All Around

Thusly They Ended Their

‘Gallipolian Endeavor in Shame

***

The War Dragged On For Months and Months

The Men Were Growing More and More

Fatigued and Morose

“How Long Will This Bullshit Go On?”

Could Often Be Heard About The Mess Tent At Night

Morale Was Low

***

Then One Day Word Came Down That ‘Peace’ Talks Were On-Going Somewhere In Europe.

“Paris, France” Was The Scuttlebutt

Made ‘Parfait’ Sense To ‘Moi

Those ‘Frogs’ Sucked At War, But They Were Damn Talented When It Came Time To Sue For Peace.

At Any Rate, Morale Was Lifted By The News.

This War Had Become Not Unlike ‘The Korea’, or Perhaps ‘The Nam‘, Or Perhaps ‘Le Deux’.

A ‘See-Saw’ War of Attrition

It Simply No Longer Made No Sense

Nor Showed No Sign of Contrition

We Had Gained A Little Ground, But Nowhere Near Enough To Justify All The Lives Lost Or Destroyed

***

Late One Evening Some of the Men Were Rummaging Around in the Galley Looking For a ‘Late-Night Snack’

Don’t Despair About The Frigidaire,

‘Cuz Now It’s Clean In There

Just Take My Word. You’ll Have To:

I’m Outta Film

Suddenly The Communications Officer Appeared, Running And Screaming Throughout The Camp:

“The War is OVER! The War is OVER!

‘Cease-Fire’ Effective in Twenty-Four Hours!”

Joyous Pandemonium Quickly Ensued

Whoa! Not-So-Fast Hot-Rod!

Twenty-Four Hours Can Be a

Very, Very Long Time

Beaucoup Bullshit Can Go Down in Twenty-Four Hours

After That Initial Orgasmic Spurt of Elation The Men Grew Nervous and Paranoid

Never A Great State Of Mind For A Fighting Man

No One, it Seemed, Wished to be The Last Man To Die in ‘Marcom’s Hooch War’

****

With The War ‘Over’

(For The Time-Being)

Things Settled Into ‘Détente Lite’

Nothing Left To Fight

The ‘Cold War’ Did Commence

And Stuck Us On The Fence

And Even More Stressing

The Bills Kept A-Coming

Never ‘Paid’ Them Much Attention Before

Way Too Busy, So… Ignore

But No Way Now To Relieve That Stress Somehow

Nor The Boredom

I Suppose I Could Work On Cleaning My Hooch Some More…

My Depravity Knows No Boundary

I have stocked up on Honourable Food & Beverage.

Brain-Food, Health-Food, Writer’s-Food & Liquid Propulsion.

Should be able to ‘Honourably’ Write Now.

I splurged and purchased a surprise ‘treat’ for the Gnats

*Evil Grin*

Yeah. Gonna give them the night off, so that they may binge–watch

“Alien”

Can you spot the ‘Surprise’ out of the

‘Many Other Myriad’ Goodies?

Parting Shots:

  1. If You have read this far, seek counsel.
  2. If you have read this far I ‘for-real’ love you.
  3. If you have read this far, I leave you with a little ‘touch of Joni.’

Far Too Many of Her Songs Make Up My Life’s Soundtrack.

Cheers My Friends!

Vid Cred: JoniJourney

Please Don’t Shit in my Showers

Dispatches From Afghanistan: Mouses, Goats, and Snakes, Oh My!

***

The Jordanians are coming!

The Jordanians are coming!

Specifically the JAF. (Jordanian Armed Forces)

They will be living here in my LSA 2.

Wonderful.

Each of my tents have a capacity of 120 U.S. Marines. They ain’t ‘comphy’, but they cozy and U.S. Marines do not complain. They are Marines.

The JAF contingent will top off at one hundred. They have been promised three of my tents. The math doesn’t work for me. I need every tent I have (twenty-four) to serve the Marines who transit through Dwyer on their way to the war.

After some lobbying (and dire predictions of pissed off Marines who won’t have a tent to sleep in), I got the JAF allocation down to two tents.

Why after all these years the Jordanian government had decided to send troops to southern Afghanistan, I am not sure. But I have a theory:  “U.S. Department of State.” 

Yep.

Not military necessity. Not a request from the coalition of governments already represented here. Not the U.S. Military.

Nope.

Politics.

I have nothing against Jordan or the Jordanian people. In fact, I love them. I lived and worked in Amman Jordan for six months back in ‘07 while working to close-out the paperwork on the USAID Rural Water Project we had completed in Iraq. (Bechtel, the prime contractor, had decided there was no point to continually put our lives at risk in Iraq doing paperwork we could just as easily finish in their Amman offices).

I had a meeting with the Mayor’s Cell here on Dwyer. (The ‘Mayor’s Cell’ is the term used for the administrative branch of the Marines who actually own Camp Dwyer.) All decisions of the Mayor are final. Except, I found out, when it comes to the JAF and their accommodations.

Apprehensive over the impending arrival of the Jordanians, I asked the Mayor, “Does the Mayor’s Cell have any special directive for treatment of the JAF?”

“Not at all Son. Treat ‘em like Marines.”

“Yessir!” (This was the response I had been hoping for)

With the help of the Labor Department and a few of my staff, I readied the two tents for the Jordanians.

We were told to expect roughly one hundred men, so we set up fifty-five military cots in each tent. These tents in LSA 2 are best described as ‘Spartan.’

There are four ‘doors’ which are simply canvas flaps about four feet wide. When the wind is up the flaps flap open allowing Afghanistan to blow inside.

You Can Run From The Sand, But You Cannot Hide

The occupants are not allowed to tie the flaps shut, as this creates a safety hazard in the event of a fire—no quick egress.

Each of the tents has two HVAC units. They are inadequate for the weather extremes here. The tents are in disrepair. They leak, they sag, they have mold. I cannot get approval from the Mayor’s Cell through DynCorp to provide anything more than patchy maintenance.

“A lick and a promise.” That’s all. They tell me, “No more funding is available for LSA 2. Deal with it.”

I made a prediction to Shannon (my immediate supervisor and good friend): “Duck, I said, “There ain’t no way those Jordanians are gonna sleep on cots.”

Why not?” he says, “They Soldiers, ain’t they?”

“Hide and watch what happens when they get here and have a look inside their tents,” was all I said.

Two days later they arrived. I got them checked in, inspected the tents with their liaison officer, and had him sign for the cots. (Over his protestations)

Next day I observed about a dozen Marines off-loading brand new bed frames and brand new, thick mattresses (still wrapped in clear plastic!) from two flatbed trucks.

And I have trouble getting replacement cots for the ones rendered unserviceable due to fair wear and tear.

Again, “Deal with it.”

I got on the phone and called Shannon over at LSA 3, “Hey Duck, get over here to LSA 2. You ain’t gonna believe the shit I’m lookin’ at.”

I couldn’t wait to hear his comments once he saw the Marines struggling to assemble the bed racks and unwrapping the new mattresses.

“Well, I’ll be damned. You called this one Bro. Hey! Those are brand new fuckin’ mattresses. The red ones. The best ones! Mayor’s Cell been telling me they got no replacement mattresses for my LSA Three. Shit-Mother-Fuck!”

(LSA 3 was for permanent residents: CHUs—Containerized Housing Units–instead of tents and beds instead of cots, but money for that LSA’s maintenance was also drying up.)

LSA 3 CHUs

***

Over the next week there was a flurry of construction inside the two JAF tents. The Jordanian officers wanted separate rooms inside the tents.

No problem. Approved. Then built.

These flaps won’t do; we need doors.

No problem. Approved. Then built.

We want our own smoking area with table and benches.

No problem. Approved. Then built.

(They continued to smoke inside their tents anyway—serious safety violation)

Another safety and health violation concerned food. We forbid any and all food in the tents. The only consumable allowed in the tents was water.

The Jordanian officers had their junior enlisted personnel deliver plates of food to them from the DFAC. (Dining Facility)

I observed some Jordanians washing pots and pans in one of the Ablution Units Yes, ‘ablution’

(For some strange reason this is what the U.S. Military called the trailers which had the showers and shitters. Smacked of religious ritual to me.)

So I knew they were also cooking inside their tents. Of course I confronted their officers over this MAJOR safety hazard, only to be lied to:

LSA2_tents

LSA 2 Tents

“No. No cooking. Just making coffee and tea.”

“Doesn’t matter. It must stop immediately. You are putting the entire LSA at risk from fire.”

Few days later I was visited in my little office by the JAF liaison officer, (a man I had actually become good friends with)

“Salaam,” I said.

“Howdy” he said back. He had been trying to teach me Arabic and I was trying to teach him Texican.

“What can I do for you my friend?”

“We have mouses.”

I had to laugh. “Mouses, eh? You know why you have ‘mouses’, don’t you?”

“No,” he replied softly, studying his boots.

“You have mouses because your folks are bringing food into the tents.”

“Oh no, No food. Just cookies and things like that.”

“Uh huh,” was all I could muster.

“We need traps and poison.”

“I can get you those, but until your men stop eating in the tents, you’re gonna have mice. And guess what comes next?”

Looking up he said, “Don’t know. What?”

Snakes” I said.

“I don’t like snakes,” he said, now looking horrified.

“Well, the food brings the mice and the mice bring the snakes: simple Darwin progression.”

“Who is this ‘Darwin’? He the one with the traps and poison?”

“Never mind. Look, you have to try to stop your men from keeping food in the tents. That’s the only way to get rid of the mice. Or if you don’t want to do that, you may soon discover a snake in your bed.”

“I don’t like snakes,” he said again.

“Listen my friend,” I said as sincerely as I could. “Personally I don’t care if your guys eat in their tent and I am sorry you have mice and soon you will have snakes. This doesn’t bother me at all.”

“But, what if,” I continued, “one of the snakes gets bad info from another snake as to where the mice can be found? Perhaps that snake gets lost and wanders into the wrong tent, a tent with hot and dusty and tired and hacked-off U.S. Marines.”

“Now suppose one of these Marines don’t like snakes any more than you do. Suppose this Marine freaks the fuck out and empties a clip in the general direction of the snake. You see where I’m goin’ with this? Then the Marine finds out the snake was just trying to find your tents. Now you have bigger issues than ‘mouses’, me, and snakes. You have one severely pissed off Marine.”

“I am beginning to understand,” He said.

“Good. I will get you the traps and I’ll have the Vector Control lady put out more poison. Anything else I can do for you?”

“No. Thanks,” he said as he turned toward the door, then looked back and said, “Adyoose.”

I laughed and said, “Mas Salaami.”

Some days later I had a visit from Labor One. (See the Wheeless Wheelbarrow post)  The Labor guys were responsible for the twice-daily cleaning of the Ablution Units, Among myriad other responsibilities.

“Labor One! What brings you to my humble LSA Office?” I greeted him.

“I have problem,” he announced. (His Romanian accent is music)

“Well, I am here to help. If I can. What is the nature of your problem?”

“The Jordanians are making a shit in showers again,” he said.

“What do you mean ‘Again’? This is the first I’ve heard of this,” I said, somewhat pissed that this had not been brought to my attention before now.

“Ya. They make a shit in shower. Sometimes they make a shit in the back of toilet.”

“The ‘back’ of the toilet?”

“Ya. You know, the part that has the water.”

Still somewhat confused, I asked, “You mean the reservoir with the flushing mechanics in it?”

“Ya, They take lid off, stand on toilet seat and make a shit in dere.”

“Unbelievable!”

“Oh ya. Believe it.”

“OK. OK. I’ll look into this,” I said with a heavy sigh.

His crew was a mite squeamish, so I really needed to fix this little problem.

The problem of course is that all the ablution units had western style toilets. Middle East folks do not like to sit on a toilet. They prefer to squat.  They also do NOT like to discuss anything relating to shit and toilets, squatting or sitting. I would have to approach this one with tact and diplomacy:

“You Shit Here:

NOT HERE:

I had fielded complaints from a few Marines about Jordanians washing their feet in the sinks as well. No ‘small feat’ (pun maybe intended), my aging body could even attempt, the limberness and elasticity having long since gone.

At this point I should explain why the Jordanians were billeted in LSA 2 in the first place. Dwyer had an Afghani LSA which seemed to me more appropriate.

After some enquiry I found out the JAF didn’t terribly much care for Afghans. Why then, since they are not transients, but actually doing Six-Month tours of duty here, are they not billeted in one of the LSA’s for long term residents?

The reason: They wanted to live close to the Mosque. LSA 2 has the only Mosque on Dwyer. It is a tent just like the other tents, but it had somehow been ‘Mosque-a-fied’.  

I confess ignorance of the ways of Islam, so I cannot tell you what that means precisely. But apparently it means a lot. At any rate, I had the care and feeding of the Jordanians for the foreseeable future.

When Ramadan came around, all five DFACs on Dwyer changed their operating hours to accommodate the one hundred or so Jordanians of the JAF.

Basically this meant the evening meal hour was pushed back until after sundown, seriously pissing off any Marine you cared to ask.

This had not been done for past Ramadans even though Camp Dwyer must have had hundreds of Muslims already living and working onboard.

My morning commute took me past the Mosque and the JAF tents on my way to my office on the opposite end of LSA 2.

The day before the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid al-Fitr or Feast of Breaking the Fast, I was greeted by the bleats of two very shaggy goats which were tied up to a stack of wooden pallets.

Between bleats they were munching on a pile of orange peels, apples, and some other items I didn’t recognize.

As far as I knew, the only animals authorized on board Dwyer were the military dogs owned and operated by the Marines.

“Mike’s gonna go ‘bullshit’ when he sees this” I thought as I walked past the goats toward my office. “And I’m gonna love it.” (Note: Mike was the Billeting Manager, and not one of my favorite people. For more on his story please refer to my recent post:

 Emails From Afghanistan: My Boss, aka: ‘That Guy I Wouldn’t Want Running An Elevator For Me’

Every morning at 0700hrs we conducted a meeting of the Military Billeting side of the Big Billeting Department House. This meeting was always held in my office. As folks were filing in that day all had some commentary about the goats.

Persad probably had the most to say, as Persad was always full of opinion (Note: Please refer to Below) 

A Conversation Over a Plywood Wall In a Tent in Afghanistan

“Hey Mar-cone,” he began. “Did ya see dem goats over to the Jordanians?”

“Yeah Persad. Kinda hard to miss ‘em.”

“What dem Jordanian need wid dem goat?”

“Buddy, I really don’t wanna think on that before I get some coffee in me.”

“Well…I tink they don’t need dem goat here.”

“Persad, guess what I ‘tink’? I think I don’t give a shit. We’ll kick it up to Mayor’s Cell. The Mayor must have authorized the goats. I mean, how do you suppose they got past security at the main gate?”

“Mistah Mike, he gonna be pee oh’d ‘bout dem goat. Ya know, he doan like nuthin’ outta ordinary.”

“You let me worry ‘bout Mike.”

“Okay Boss, but dem goat…”

Mike showed up a few hours later and upon entering my office said, “Marcom, do you realize there are goats in your LSA? In front of the JAF tents?”

“Goats? Mike, you know pets aren’t authorized. I ain’t seen no goats. You sure ‘bout this?”

Mike opened my office door and said, “Look down there. Goats!”

I got up from my desk and slowly walked to the door. Looking out, I said. “Mike. There are goats in the LSA.”

“Marcom, you had to have known this. Stop fucking with me. I want you to go over to the Mayor’s Cell and tell the Mayor about these goats.”

“Michael, this is above my pay grade. You know I never bother the Mayor with my little issues,” I lied. (The Mayor and I were on a ‘first-name basis’ and we were friends).

“Why don’t you, as Billeting Manager, manage on over there and talk to him? Your words will carry more weight. But I figure the Mayor knows already. I mean, he must have authorized the goats. I’d even venture that they have Dwyer ID badges. Did you check to see if they had badges?”

Why he didn’t fire me, I can only speculate. I played a major role in his getting shit-canned months later, but I probably should not detail that here, as I am using his real name and this story is all truth, and I don’t wanna get sued or something and… and… and.

Suffice to say, Mike was not well-liked by anyone I have ever met. I will leave it at that.

Mike kept on fuming, “This LSA is your responsibility. You better get to the bottom of this goat business before close of business today.”

“Okay Mike. Relax. I will sort this out, but that one goat, the one with the baby-shit-brown eyes, she kinda cute.”

He turned on his heel and left my office, slamming the door.

Lashonda remarked, “Lance, one day you gonna push that man too far.”

“Naw. We friends an’ shit Lashonda. It’s all good.”

Lashonda rolled her eyes, then said, “Lance, I love you, you crazy white-boy sonuvabitch.”

(She had been treated badly by Mike in the past and did not favor him at all)

LaShonda

I walked down to the JAF tents looking for my Jordanian friend (the liaison one). Found him and asked about the goats.

“They are for our Eid al-Fitr,’ he informed me.

“Friend, you cannot have goats here. How did you get them past security?”

“They said it was okay.”

“Really? Did the Mayor sign off on this?”

“Not exactly. I told the security men that this was OK with the Marines.”

“So, the Mayor’s Cell knows nothing of this?”

“No My Friend, they don’t,” he said, once again, studying his boots as he did so.

“You do realize I must tell the Mayor, don’t you?”

“Yes,” he sighed, looking up at me. “But if you will give me a few hours, I will make them disappear. Eid is very important to us and we need to have our feast.”

“Okay My Friend, but if you slaughter these goats and cook them in my LSA, I am not gonna be happy. Not even one drop of goat blood better hit the ground of my LSA. Understood?”

Don’t worry. I will take them out of Camp with tonight’s patrol and we will cook them there and bring them back in the morning.”

“Good enough. But I want a plate of roasted goat delivered to me for lunch tomorrow.”

“Hahaha! Yes Boss. You will have it!”

“Shukran,” I said and left him to it.

****

Closing Arguments:

Poo Poo Song:  “Let’s Poo in the Potty”

Emails From Afghanistan: My Boss, ‘That Guy I Wouldn’t Want Running An Elevator For Me’ (Re-Written/Expanded)

(Ed. Note: I reached way down into the archives and re-worked this one)

LSA TWO OFFICE

“LSA”-“Life Support Area”-or in the local vernacular aka: “Life Sucks Ass.”

Yet another email I dispatched from Camp Dwyer, 2012:

Around 1730hrs a truck pulls up outside my office at LSA Two. I didn’t see who was in the truck, but I figured I was about to have a visitor. (I’m really smart that way)

After the truck had been literally blocking my door for about five minutes, Michael J Smith (My Manager, The ‘BBB’, ‘Billeting BIG BOSS’) walks in holding up a pack of L&M cigarettes. Now remember, I have not seen this guy for the day-and-a-half he had been “Back Onboard” Dwyer.

“Anyone in here smoke these?” were the first words out of his mouth.

I look up from my personal emails and say, “Dunno. Lashonda smokes, but doubtful she smokes those. That’s a ‘White-Boy’ brand.” (She was out of the office, actually smoking at this time)

“Well, I wish whoever is smoking these would stop doing it on the bench.” (There’s a bench just outside my office door and it sits in a ‘No-Smoking’ area.)

“Sorry Mike; not on ‘bench patrol duty’ today. Could’ve been anybody; probably a Marine with a rifle or a Jordanian with a goat. Did you drive all the way across this burning desert to tell me this? Or do you have some business here? Oh and welcome back by the way.” (Saturated sarcasm, I’m afraid.)

“Uh,… You do realize we have a ‘serious situation’ on our hands in Billeting?”

(Well, duh. You’re the schmuck who has been gone, not me). I just gave him my best *You’re fucking kidding me, right? Lance, peering-over-his-glasses look.*

The Lance-Look

He continues, struggling now to maintain his Authority Voice,

“Uh, of course you know everyone is gonna have to ‘get on board’ with all this new responsibility.”

I continue *Lance-looking* him.

“I’m going to want you to run LSA 1 from this office; (LSA 2) are you ready to take ownership of this mission?”

“Sure, no problem,” I said. “But you do realize, Michael, that LSA 1 is over a half-mile from here and I have no vehicle?”

“Uh, I didn’t mean right now. But just as soon as Shannon gets everything settled down. Then we can come up with a plan forward.”

“Sorry Mike, but I’m not in the ‘Plan-Forward coming up with Business’ That’s above my pay grade. But as soon as YOU come up with a Plan, forward or otherwise, I will be happy to follow it.”

*Looks hurt & confused* Mikey does.

“Well, uh” he stammers, “Everyone is gonna have to get on-board with all this.”

You mentioned that. Anything  else? How was your R&R?” I said, hoping to change the subject and also out of mean-spiritedness, because I knew he was going to tell me something stupid. He didn’t disappoint:

“I had the flu for the first week and spent the next week getting over it.”

“Damn rotten luck. Perhaps DynCorp will allow you a ‘do-over.’ Whaddya think?”

*Gears grinding as he searches—in vain—for something to say: painful to witness the mechanics of this*

“Nice chair,” he said finally, plopping his fat ass down in a chair Shannon had liberated from a Marine Corps office in one of the LSAs we were taking over.

“Yeah, Shannon delivered that to us yesterday; nice to finally have a proper office chair in here after twelve months.”

“I have chairs on order for Billeting,” he reminded me.

“Yes, and ever since forever, even before I got here; still no sign of them,” I reminded him.

“Uh, yeah… they’re stuck at the Pakistani border; they’re gonna fly ‘em out.”

“Whatever. By the way, you do know these other two chairs are my personal property, purchased with my personal money, so don’t get any ideas.”

“Yes, yes, I know. I know those belong to you and your office.”

“Of course.”

***

Interior of LSA Tent #24

I won’t bore you with the rest of the conversation; I think you get the drift and the general tenor of it.

I did have one last little bit of wicked fun with Michael before our conversation ended:

“Hey ‘Marvin’, er… ‘Mike’. I got an email from the DynCorp Camp Manager. I believe it was sent to me in error because in the body of text he kept directing his words at you. Come over here and I’ll show you the attachment. Maybe you can figure out its meaning. I’m stumped.”

M.J.S. waddled over to stand behind me. I queued this up and clicked the ‘Play’ button.

I don’t know if he ‘got it’–Michael is somewhat dense–At any rate, he didn’t seem amused.

***

After leaving work for the day I stopped by the Housing Office in the DynCorp LSA Compound (where there’s a tent I call ‘home’), and caught Shannon there, still working. (See? He does deserve to be Billeting Manager.)

Shannon and Lance

“Mister Duckworth!” I saluted.

“Mister Marcom!” he returned.

“What up Duck?”

*gives me his best ‘exasperated’ look*

“Yeah, I know; they cancelled Christmas. What the fuck’s going on with MJS?”

I asked as discreetly as I could; (there were others present) which was none too discreet I fear, but didn’t matter; All Departments despised Monsieur le Mike, aka Michael J. Smith. (Not sure, but I think the ‘J’ stands for ‘Jagoff’)

“Don’t worry; it’s still gonna happen.”

“Christmas?”

“Yeah, an’ New Year’s too,” he said.

“Ok, I’ll cool my jets an’ cancel my de-mobe.” (de-mobilization)

“Lance Bro,” (he sometimes calls me ‘Bro’) “Mike went to HR on me today.”

“Get the fuck out!” I said, honestly shocked. “Some brass balls on this guy.”

“Yeah, he told HR he couldn’t work with me anymore.”

“Pardon me a moment Shannon, while I fall down on this plywood floor and laugh my ass off. It’ll just take a sec.”

“Dude, (he sometimes calls me ‘Dude’) I’m serious! He went to HR on me and HR told me later about it and also told me to sit tight an’ chill; he will be leaving us soon.”

“Before Christmas, let’s hope,” I said.

“Yeah, yeah. Listen, Mike came to see me after he left LSA 2. He asked me, ‘What’s wrong with Lance?’ I tole him, I said, ‘Mike, every time you go to LSA 2 and talk to Lance, you come back and ask me this same stupid shit.’ An’ he says, ‘I don’t think Lance likes me. Why doesn’t he like me?’ This mothafucka is stupid.”

“Yeah Shannon, ya think? We all know this. Hell, tell the sonuvabitch to ask me next time, and you know what? It’s not as if I haven’t told him more than once to his face my issues with him. This guy wears me out.” (And I wonder why I have not been promoted)

“Yeah. You’re right.”

“Listen to me Shannon, take your ass on outta here and go to bed; it’s late.”

“Okay Brother (sometimes he calls me ‘Brother’), I’m heading out now.”

“Good. See you tomorrow. Night.”

“Peace out, My Friend.” (He sometimes even calls me “Friend”)

*********

Afghan-Is-Sand

Two Years in Afghanistan And I never Got To See Anything Like THIS BELOW!

All I ever saw were goats, rugged Marines, Indians, Kenyans, Eastern Europeans, Some Ugly Americans, to Include That One I saw In The Mirror, & Sand, Lots of Sand

Aryana Sayeed

Born 1985 in Kabul, Afghanistan

Never ANYTHING Like This!

And this was while I was There!

Online Release Date: Valentine’s Day 2011

Suppose I should be grateful for not even knowing what I was missing out on…

Well, I’m not!

Damn!

***

Severely Related:

Please Don’t Shit in my Showers