Autumn

Autumn

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Olongapo in My Dreams

It's been an awfully busy morning. This heat wave we're under is about to sap my energy. It forced me to drive to work with my truck windows lowered, and to top it off, I had to switch out my long sleeved wool cover shirt to a nice light short sleeved Columbia. This sun....what can I say, it's awful.

I'm fairly certain my left arm has a tan, you know, since I have a habit of riding with my arm on the trucks window sill...bug splatter and sunburn is always the result.

Sorry, tear drops in my milk...

Please, cherish your winter. Its so very fleeting.

*****

This morning two old timers came into the shop. I can never remember the two of them in here together, which is good, because they hate each other. Both retired Navy men. Old farts and a half. Within five minutes they put on their game faces and squared off for a rumble. Each had served for a period of time in Olangapo Subic Bay. Both are well aware I too served there as part of a detachment of the 'Screaming Green Meanies.'

The place was awful. Olongapo reeks of grilled monkey and dog meat cooked over little street side fires tended by either old women or girls, or at least those young women still too young for the street trade. The town of Olongapo is separated from the base by a brownish river aptly named, 'Shit River.'

Long story short as business is brisk...

These two old fellas had one heck of an argument about the town. One loved it for its ready supply of girls, night clubs and the awful skunk beer, San Miguel. It has the taste and flavor just this side of horse tinkle...but I'm not a beer drinker.

Old timer number two hated the place for its abundance of pick-pockets, murderers in the form of Hucks, the prostitutes, poverty and because he'd been stuck there for months and missed other ports of call.

I took a neutral stance.

They almost came to blows. I held 'em back. Old timer number two flew out the door in a pretty darn good rage.

Me, "What the heck is his problem?"

Old timer number one, "Oh, he's okay. You know we've known each other for years. Attend the same church. See, here's the thing. When he was stationed at Subic he met and married one of those pretty little street girls, know what I mean? Yep, he sure did." He pauses and takes a deep breath. "Well, one day at church, way back when, he introduced his wife. Nice little lady, 'bout four foot nothing. Later that week we bump into each other at the Publix."

He reaches and flicks his ear, smiles, then turns and gives me this evil smile. I'm liking this stuff.

He continues, "Me and him chat a bit and I mentioned he had a nice wife, good stock those Asian ladies. I didn't think really. Went on in a joking manner I'd met her before. He asked where. Said back at Subic in '71. Told him her and I had quite the evening together. I know, stupid of me, but still."

Me, "Ah, man, you didn't." From this guy though, it didn't surprise me.

"Yes, I did and I'll forever be sorry. It was just a stupid joke. Thing is I believe he feels guilt. After all these years, with him in knowledge of my, and now your, service in that cesspool of a town, and knowing we know what those girls did for a living, and then he ups and married one...well, it just about kills him."

I can understand.

"See, thing is, she's been a fine wife and mother. She's a citizen now. Bright lady. Attends church, but he just can't get the image out of his mind she had loved hundreds of other sailors all those years ago..."

Me, "So now you guys fight."

"Yes. He was once my best friend until that day at the Publix."

Stephen





25 comments:

  1. What we say and do has a way of coming around to bite us in the backside, doesn't it.

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  2. What Vicki said. Or to put it another way, "...be sure your sin will find you out." (Numbers 32:23)

    You can decide which of those two gentlemen the verse applies to ... if not both. :)

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    1. I'll not judge either. One just married a woman out of love, I suppose. I'm sure he was well aware of her occupation but when faced with the knowledge, his friend, even if by accident, joked about it, faced embarrassment. The other is just a mean spirited man.

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  3. Well I am not so sure about any Christian scripture that may apply but I know of one big rule of friendship that does, Had they always been rivals or anything but friends then it would be funny. Had the relationship been a fling or just a memory it would have been funny. Being "best friends" though and the guy's wife? Nah that's a serious breach of tribe protocol there. I have seen people killed for less.

    A friend's wife or serious significant other goes into a special classification of person that rates the same special care gloves of children. Ya just don't go there unless you know the guy well enough to know it won't be an issue.

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    1. Trust me, the guy that threw out the joke is just a butthole. Didn't surprise me a bit. You are of course correct.

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  4. "I love you no s**t!
    You buy me color TV,
    You take me stateside..."

    When I think of Olongopo I sure don't think of palm trees. The reason I never took a MAC flight from Kadena to Australia, even though I always intended to, was that when I actually got to the airfield, some mysterious force took over my mind and I wound up on a flight to Clark.

    I hate to say it, but if you married one of those girls, you had to know she was "friends" with half the fleet. That's what they did. I don't think I would have blurted out I "knew" the woman to her husband though, that's poor headwork.

    Subic was Disneyland for adults. My brother T was there as well during his 13 month tour on Oki, and he also spent many happy days there. I don't feel bad about it. I wasn't married and I wasn't a Mormon, so ......

    Ah, the perfume of "S**t River" , I can smell it now. Not that I want to, ugh!

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    1. 'Disneyland for adults,' well put, Harry. For me it was a constant fight and hassle. I was in and out of the place from late '69 until '75. I was tagged in late '74 for assignment to the White Admirals police force. Served for four months then escaped. Hated it. I still smell the river.

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  5. This is sad but life is made of choices not saying he was right to say that about his wife but sometimes we have to have a little perspective or you could say reality check....guilt is an ugly deal but can be overcome!
    One can learn from this story....

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    1. Very true, my friend. Guilt is indeed ugly.

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  6. That's really a sad story, too bad. It's strange how words can lead to separation with friends and loved ones.

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  7. Great story. My formative years were spent reading John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee novels, and I viewed McGee as a role model/mentor. McGee, although a womanizer, wasn't a whoremonger, and I took my cue from him, and stayed out of bars and whorehouses during my Navy years. What does it say about the Navy that the only opinion many foreigners have of us is as drunks and whoremongers?

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    1. Thanks, Bob...I own a copy of each of McGee novel. MacDonald was a fine writer and I still remember the day of his death. As far as the girls, well, to each his own. I wasn't married during the first few years of my service so did have a few girlfriends around the world. Even fell in love a few times. Told one sweet girl, from Germany, I'd marry her - the next morning. She accepted.

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  8. Well, you missed a hell of a good time, Bob. To each his own.

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  9. War Story, Jim Morris
    http://freenorthcarolina.blogspot.com/2012/07/war-story-jim-morris.html

    How true.

    "It s a mistake to call the girls whores because that word has connotations that do not apply in Asia. Their services were offered in much the same spirit, and with no more shame, than bar peanuts or table napkins. A simple commercial transaction with no moral or personal implications."

    The link above reveals the story of Thuy Kieu the heroine of The Tale Of Kieu which is Vietnam's Epic National Poem. She sold herself into prostitution to save her father.

    A hundred years in this life span on earth/
    talent and destiny are apt to feud./
    You must go through a play of ebb and flow/
    and watch such things as make you sick at heart/
    Is it so strange that losses balance gains? /

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  10. Replies
    1. Thanks and Nguyen Du does a wonderful job in the translation.

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  11. Stephen. You tell a great story. Well done.
    (BTW: A trip to Olongapo in no longer on my bucket list. )

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    1. You would enjoy Pagsanjan Falls and Baguio City, I believe.

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    2. Thanks, Cathy. The city as it was is no more...I understand it has become very civilized and fairly safe. My time there was so long ago all traces of my time have faded to mist.

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  12. NOT the first time I've heard a similar story... I was there too... And yes there ARE pictures now on the net from the bars in Subic/Olongapo...

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    1. Thank Goodness I dodged the camera.

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  13. good read. I know many girls and to them the work was work. One even described it "like going to an ATM. Doing the routine poking and cashing in. They fantasize that we adore them, but they don't know that we spend their money with our boyfriend."

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