Friday, August 17, 2007

Agana Goon

If there was one hard rule that I traveled by back in my navy days, it was that when I was in a foreign country, I tried to get as far away from my fellow American servicemen whenever I could. The only time I ever violated this rule was in 1993 when my ship pulled into Guam.

Now technically, my rule was not violated since Guam is actually part of the United States and even if I traveled so far into the interior that I stumbled across a lost tribe of Chamorro cannibals, I would still legally be amongst Americans. Granted, the island is only around four miles wide and at most, fifty miles long so there is not a lot of unexplored territory to stumble into. It is probably safe to say that there are fewer cannibals on Guam than there were in Milwaukee during the Jeffery Dahmer era.

Of Guam itself, there is not much that I can tell you about it since I do not think that I ventured more than five miles from the base. We were only there for two days and as luck would have it, I spent the first of them on duty. As liberty for the ship was going to be cancelled at midnight in preparation for our departure early the following morning, I found myself with just over 12 hours of free time to work with to experience what the island had to offer.

It did not leave a big impression. It was hot there of course and the island did have its share of palm trees but for the most part I remember the island as being brown rather than a lush tropical green and covered more by low brush and tall grasses than thick equatorial rainforest. I would not take this as an accurate characterization of the entire island because, as I said before, I did not get out much. In addition to that, it has been fourteen years since I have been there and most of my memories of the visit took place at night.

A buddy of mine, Ben Wathen, was in the same predicament that I was and the two us decided to at least get off of the ship for a little while and see what the place was like. We went to a ship-sponsored Lu’au not far from base (the furthest from it we got) and ate some spit roasted pig while some native hula dancers performed in front of us. The food was top notch but I suspected we got third-string dancers though. They were much larger than the svelte mocha-colored girls that flashed across my family’s television screen during the opening theme song to “Hawaii Five-O” when I was a kid, shaking their hips as if someone had slipped a few Brazilian fire ants in their underwear. The dancers we got looked like Winston Churchill who, after downing a case of Stolichnaya with his frat buddy Josef Stalin, decided to don a bad wig and a grass skirt and push an imaginary shopping cart around the campfire for a couple of hours.

After we ate, the two of us tried to go swimming but were prevented from doing so by rough seas and a riptide threat. After that, we decided to just go back to base and get drunk at the enlisted man’s club.

The EM club was nothing to rave about and initially Ben and I were both rather disappointed that all they played was country music. This drove us nuts for about the first five pitchers of beer we drank but by the sixth, we were standing on tables singing Merle Haggard louder than anyone else in the bar. Overall, we were having a grand time until about nine o’clock when I left our table to grab ourselves another pitcher. By then, the bar was packed. There were two large ships in port, my vessel the USS Belleau Wood and our sister ship, the USS Peliliu which was identical to ours. Between the two boats, we had unleashed over 1000 people upon the small base and it seemed like most of them, along with nearly everyone stationed on Guam, their dependants, and a heavy contingent of Shore Patrol and Military Police were packed into that little club.

It took me forever to get through the mass of humanity to get my pitcher filled but luckily I was able to pass the time talking with another buddy of mine, Ryan Baker, who had drawn Shore Patrol duty that night and had been assigned to the club. He, like the rest of us, was lamenting the lack of women on base and how he could not wait to pull out the following morning and head to Australia. I remember that only because when I returned to the table, one of the few women I had seen in the club was sitting on Ben’s lap sucking his ear lobes and as it turned out, she just happened to be Australian. I have to say as well, she was incredibly attractive for a woman who was smashed completely out of her gourd. She had straight shoulder-length blond hair, a body that could cause sins of commission at 15 miles and bright blue eyes that must have been just striking when she was able to keep them all the way open. In other words, she was way out of our league.

“Wow, Ben.” I said as I retook my seat. “That’s not a bad job for someone who hasn’t left his seat all night. Would you like to introduce us?”

Ben tried to answer but as soon as he opened his mouth, the girl on his lap leaned over and tried to stick her tongue into it. He gently grabbed her head and guided it back to his ear. “I would but I have no idea what her name is. As soon as you left she just plopped right down on my lap and started sucking on my neck.”

“You’re quite the Studmuffin, Ben. So, you two getting out of here or what?”

Ben shook his head. “If she was just sober enough to tell me her name I might consider it but in the condition she’s in, it just wouldn’t be right. Besides that, my Spidey Senses are going off big time. She’s giving me some bad vibes.”

Ben was like that. If someone needed help he was always there. He was painfully honest, possessed an unshakeable sense of morality and could always be depended upon to do the right thing. In short, Ben was the sort of guy that I would avoid like the plague if I was embarking upon a tear of Third World drinking establishments, preferring the company of someone who was much more comfortingly sociopathic. For some reason though, I liked the guy and felt compelled to put him on the right path. “Bad vibes? They look pretty good from this angle.”

“No man, something’s not right about this.”

“I’ll say. She should have picked a heterosexual to try and seduce.”

“Ha. Ha.” Ben paused for a second to place his hands over the girl’s cheeks and pull her towards him so that they were face-to-face. “What. Is. Your. Name?”

In answer to Ben’s question she leaned forward and whispered it into his ear before going back to licking his neck.

“Well?” I asked.

Ben shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. It sounded something like ‘Yynjelffijick’. She’s from Melbourne.”

I waved at her. “Hi Yynjelffijick! Glad to meet you.” She did not respond. My guess is that she had no idea that I was even there. “Well Ben, the way I see it you’ve got two choices here. It’s kind of hard to drink beer with someone else’s tongue in your mouth so I would advise you to either tell the angel on your shoulder to go take a hike or quit stringing Yynjelffijick along and end this thing with her now before you break her heart. She looks like the innocent fragile type so it might be a little hard on her now, but if you wait too long she’ll never get over it.”

Just then Ryan and a couple of the other guys on shore patrol stepped up to our table to check out Ben’s new squeeze. He let out a short whistle and said, “Man, I never figured Ben to be much of a player but…Wow!”

“My man here’s got the goods, what can I tell you?” With more of an audience, Ben’s discomfort grew exponentially and finally he had enough. He grabbed her gently around the waist, lifted her off of his lap and told her that he just was not interested and it was time for her to leave.

Yynjelffijick actually seemed to take the rejection fairly well. She just swayed a couple of times, smiled seductively at Ryan, then fell over backwards. I threw my arm out and caught her before she hit the ground, a gesture she seemed rather surprised, and impressed, by and as a token of her appreciation, she sat herself down on my lap, grabbed my head and proceeded to try to lick the back of my throat.

Of course, that is exactly the moment that her husband walked in through the front door.

Now, I do not believe that I am clairvoyant in any way, shape or form but when I saw Yynjelffijick’s husband enter the room I instantly knew what his relationship was to the woman on my lap. He was a big man and being in uniform, I could immediately see that he outranked me by several pay grades. He was obviously quite pissed off by something judging by the expression on his face, his body language and the fact that he seemed to be looking for something other than a drink since he was scanning tables instead of the bar. He looked like a bruiser who desperately craved to get his hands on a head that he could crack open and within a split second I deduced that the melon that was destined to be split was mine. Like I said, I do not have ESP. I just have really bad luck when it comes to that sort of thing.

I tried to sink into my seat to make myself a smaller target but he made me almost instantly. By the time Ben and Ryan saw the guy, we had already made eye contact and he was charging. He was not running at me so much as he was marching double time with homicidal intent as he pushed people out of his way to reach us.

I tried to size up my odds. We were the same height so that was a draw. He outweighed me by thirty muscular pounds so I was definitely at a disadvantage there. He was also a good twenty years older than me so I was pretty sure that I was faster, giving me something to neutralize his strength. Then again, I was weighed down by one hundred and ten pounds of his drunken wife as well which negated the one advantage I had. Factor in the fact that I was drunk and he was not and the motivation angle (he surely wanted to kill me much more than I wanted to kill him) and I was pretty much screwed. Still, I had surprised myself in these types of situations before so I tried to remain optimistic. This naïve optimism was crushed once he got close enough for me to make out the pin insignia he wore above the left shirt pocket of his uniform however. The eagle perched upon the trident meant that he was a US Navy SEAL and that I was fucking doomed.

My only chance was for Ryan and his partners to step up and keep us separated but judging by the two steps back they all took, it was pretty obvious that they were going to go Swedish on me. Ben bore a highly inappropriate expression of giddy relief on his face, apparently overjoyed that he was not the one caught with a naval commando’s wife on his lap. Yynjelffijick had her back to the door and was completely oblivious to the catastrophe unfolding behind her. Her last heavily slurred words to me were, “Let’s get out of here.” Come to think of it, those were the first words she said to me too.

When the chief reached our table, he reached over, grabbed Yynjelffijick by her arm and ripped her off of my lap, knocking our table over in the process and sending beer flying all over Ben. Screaming at her to go outside and get in the car, he called her “Angie”, confirming my suspicions that Yynjelffijick was probably an alias. Then instead of turning back around to finish me off, he followed her through the front door, disappearing into the night. Though the music was still playing, there was little other noise being made in the place and at that moment I had center stage.

The only thing I could do was laugh. It was not the humored, giggling that one does when he finds something funny, but the nervous maniacal roar of a person who just survived a near death experience and just can not believe that he is still alive. As I started laughing, most of the people in the bar did too and soon everyone went back to doing what they were before they were interrupted. I then got up out of my seat and took a couple of steps towards the front door before Ben jumped up and grabbed me. “Where are you going?”


“Are you nuts?!?” Ryan asked. “Give them a couple of minutes to get out of here first. The last thing you want is to get caught by that guy in a dark parking lot.”

“I’ve got to talk to him.”

“What the hell for?!?”

“To tell him I was not trying to pick up his wife.”

Ben was incredulous. “Do you honestly think he gives a shit? Dude, you need to sit down, give them some time to leave and get the hell out of here yourself.”

“Can you imagine what that guy feels like right now?” I asked. “He’s a Navy SEAL and a chief petty officer. He has earned the right to be respected and was just publicly humiliated in his own back yard. This is a small base and I can guarantee you that EVERY-one is going to be talking about this tomorrow. I need him to know that I did not play any part in that other than just being there.”

“Yeah. The only thing you did was try to get me to play a part in that.”

“Well Ben, truth be told, you could use some corrupting.”

As I waited for Ben’s response, the bar went quiet again and the color drained right out of my drinking partner’s face. Ryan and his two Shore Patrol partners again took a couple of steps back but at least this time I saw Ryan’s fingers wrap around the handle of his nightstick. I looked back over at Ben and asked, “I don’t have to go to the parking lot, do I?”

“Nope. He’s right behind you.”

I stood up straight and turned around, finding myself nose-to-nose with the woman’s husband. “Chief, I…”

“Shut the fuck up. Did my wife leave her purse here?”

“Duh..I..buuh…I don’t think so. Ben? Is Yynjelffijick’s purse over by you?”

Ben shook his head.

Giving both of us a long hard look, the SEAL then turned around to leave. “Chief!” I called out after him. “I was just sitting there, when she fell on my lap. I wasn’t trying to pick up your wife. I didn’t even know her name let alone that she was married.”

The chief then turned back towards me. The man was a SEAL and by default an efficiently lethal individual. I am positive that he had seen and done things that would have made my blood run cold. He was as tough as they come, as hardened as a man can get and forced to endure things during the course of training that would have utterly destroyed me both mentally and physically. Yet, after I told him that, I could see that he had tears in his eyes. “Is that supposed to make me feel any better? Thanks for telling me that my wife, the mother of my daughter, is such a fucking gutter slut that she’ll pick up any nameless piece of shit she can get her hands on to have herself a good time with. At this particular moment, that is EXACTLY what I need to be reminded of. Do you feel better now? Do you? ‘Cause I sure as hell don’t!”

I had not thought of that. I decided right then and there that if he did not want me to confirm his suspicions about his wife, he definitely would not appreciate me suggesting he get a paternity test done on his little girl. “I’m sorry, Chief. I just don’t know what to say.”

“Then keep your goddamn trap shut.” With that he stormed out of the bar, without his wife’s purse.

I felt horrible for the guy and having played a part, no matter how small, in forcing that chief to realize just how dysfunctional his marriage was, I was in no mood to continue the festivities. I was in the mood to depression drink so I switched from beer to tequila. I even conned Ben into joining me. A little while later, a waitress told us that Yynjelffijick, or rather Angela, was a regular at the club and was known for her rather prolific infidelity, and the numerous occasions with which she had been caught there by her husband. I was not the first and it as unlikely that I would be the last.

By 11:30, I was comfortably numb and Ben was passed out at the table. Realizing that I was going to have to carry him back to the ship so that we could get there before our midnight curfew, I decided to hit the bathroom first. When I returned, Ben was gone.

I tried to find him but just did not have much time. I suspected that he might have woken up while I was gone, thought that I’d left him and tried to make his own way back to the ship. After a cursory ten-minute search, I left too.

I made it back to the boat and was a little concerned when I checked Ben’s rack and found it empty. Assuming that he had probably just went to the RADAR shop to watch some television instead of going to bed, I turned in for the night.

The following morning, Ben was not at roll call. He was not in the shop either. After an exhaustive search of the boat, it was determined that he probably was not on the ship at all. That made my life particularly miserable as I was the last one to be seen with him and had to endure a barrage of questioning from my division officer and Master Chief. Particularly painful was the account I gave of the Yynjelffijick incident. This resulted in a call back to base to see if the chief had possibly caught Ben on his way back to the ship and slaughtered him in the dark. I was there when the call was made and whoever was in charge of the base’s security assured us that he knew exactly what chief we were talking about even though I did not know his name and that they had a full account of his whereabouts from about a half an hour after the point where we had encountered him. That sounded a lot to me as if they had him locked up. Though I had no idea whether or not that was true, I hoped that if it was, no one got hurt too badly.

At eight o’clock I watched our sister ship, the USS Pelilieu, get underway. At nine o’clock it was our turn to go and unable to wait anymore, we left without Ben. I was quite concerned. Ben was a stellar sailor, aced his performance evaluations and was one of the best men I had in my shop. I found myself in the awkward position of hoping that he had not been seriously hurt but on the other, hoping that he had been hurt seriously enough to justify being charged with Missing Ship’s Movement, which was a fairly major offence and similar to being declared AWOL.

We had been underway for an hour when we got the call from the USS Pelileu informing us that Ben had been found. My first fear was that they had found him floating face down in the Pacific Ocean but our sister ship reported that, aside from being a bit hung over, he was just fine.

Like my vessel, the USS Belleau Wood, the Pelileu was an amphibious assault ship. It was identical to ours in nearly every way except for the number painted on the hull. Apparently Ben, being as blasted as he was, walked up the gangplank of the wrong ship. The Petty Officer of the Watch must not have been checking identification cards as vigilantly as he should have and just waved him aboard. He then walked down to the Pelileu’s berthing area, crawled into the rack that would have been his on the other side of the pier, and passed out in a bed that, as luck would have it, was vacant. He slept through Reveille and did not wake up until the ship was well underway.

He was back onboard the USS Belleau Wood by lunch, but still facing the specter of a Missing Ship’s Movement charge. Both my master chief and I appealed to the captain for leniency, citing Ben’s excellent record but, at least initially, the captain seemed unmoved. Ben was placed on report and ordered to go to Captain’s Mast for non-judicial punishment. In the end though, we were able to get him sprung on a technicality. The captain could still have had Ben’s ass but my belief is that all he was trying to do was let the guy sweat his fate for a while before the skipper dropped the charges. In the end, he let Ben off because he had actually gotten underway an hour before the rest of us and so, technically, did not miss ship’s movement.

He said it just did not feel right to bust someone for being overly punctual.

Editor’s Note: I’ve been trying to document my sea stories for later publication. Keep in mind that I am trying to recall these things from nearly two decades ago out of a memory muddled by a sometimes impenetrable alcoholic haze, so there is some amount of literary license taken. I have also deliberately altered others so that those involved will not recognize the events too easily (keeping my ass out of court). Still, the events described remain pretty true to what happened. For The JEP Report’s newer readers, the related entries can be found at:

1. Savage Sushi
2. The Intricate Hazards of Philippine Cuisine
3. Conquering Fuji-san
4. Thai-ing One On
5. Tijuana Travesty
6. Decataur Debacle

With the exception of Tijuana Travesty, all names have been changed to protect the sickeningly guilty. Sacto Ritch, like myself, is rather proud of our adventures in Tijuana so I used his sign on name. That one is completely substantiated by the only person I know to have ever gone out with us in a Third World country and remained completely sober the entire night: frequent commenter Caretaker Matt.

This series will wrap up if I can commit my experiences in Korea, Hong Kong, Okinawa, Australia and Singapore to verse and manage to keep it fresh. This one was rather tough and Singapore will be absolutely brutal as that place was just too expensive and oppressive to have any fun in (I’m leaning towards making it a social commentary piece – you know, make fun of the locals).

For future entries, an article on the joys of being a Third World Inebriate has been written and submitted to in response to the request of several members there. Once it shows up there I will post here so as not to spoil the anticipation. Also, I am meeting Sacto Ritch for drinks tomorrow night so if tradition holds true, I should have something else posted by next weekend.

Unless our wives hold true to their threats and refuse to bail us out of the hoosegow this time. - JEP


Anonymous Anonymous said...

These should definitely be compiled into a book. It wouldn't be very long, though.

The entire blog would make a nice autobiography, with the rare possibility of having a sequel. I can only assume that you are not yet a zombie, so this is a fairly unusual opportunity.

If you decide to self-publish it, try Trafford. And if you need an illustrator, I know a guy.

10:32 PM  
Blogger JEP said...

Yeah, I'm working on it. Slowly, but surely.

10:34 PM  

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