Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Any Given Saturday, Military Style.
It's Cinco de Mayo and I'm half reminded of every drinking event that I may or may not half remember in the first place. When reality makes a hasty retreat if you're a lucky soul the imagination takes over and sometimes lends itself to a much better version of events, if only for story telling purposes. If you're willing to totally commit you can spin a yarn that may ultimately have you committed but the only story worth telling is one that is probably a mixture of fantasy with a smidgen of truth to keep it grounded.
It was 1992 in Northern California and it was any Saturday. Vallejo was a Navy town and if you didn't have to serve extra duty on the weekend you were allowed out in public to mingle where the Zodiac killer had historically found victims roaming the semi quiet streets, ones that were frequently punctuated with biker bars and fast food restaurants, but had really not other ambition other than to eventually put you in the wrong place at the wrong time while being under the influence of the wrong beer and in the wrong state of mind.
As an elder <over 21 years of age> in our military school, I was more prone to hang out with the dorky teachers than the students; these people were more my age and intellect in a world where half the students were too young to drink and the latter half were too busy getting drunk in groups.... in a virtual reality card game called Dungeon's and Dragon's. How's that for a social order? Sad, more sad, and most sad...
I could fall asleep standing up, I could stay awake until four in the morning knowing that our muster was at quarter past five, and I had a whole slew of home remedies and superstitions to keep me out of the barracks petty officers view and more importantly, off their report rosters. I had toothpaste in my pocket for breath, quick responses that were nearly reflexive, and more importantly, I was a funny drunk guy so most of my defense team was comprised on the guys in my room, in my classes, and more importantly on the staff that had been out the night before with me. While standing at attention in line, it's got to be difficult to report someone who you were pouring a beer for the night before, even more difficult when you were pouring the beer into an imaginary glass in your mind, while you were dumping a pitcher of beer all over the pool table in reality. It was a reality you didn't want anyone to bring up during work hours or even in the bar the next night. A gentleman never throws past events in your face, and a drunken gentleman never remembers them in the correct order of events anyway. We were under a lot of stress and we had our method of decompressing; it didn't need any modifying. It was the alcoholic version of 'Don't ask, Don't tell'. No one asked, we weren't telling.
There was a student in our class I'll call Louis, and from every perspective you looked he was an inadequate person who was not fit for military life. While out with my teaching compadres I had been warned that he would come to ill fate if he ever made it onto a ship in active duty, and that they had devised a plan to ensure that he would never reach graduation and deployment. In their scheme I was supposed to put a trash barrel over his head and push him out a window. I'm not sure if it was because they thought I was easily suggestible while drunk but I'm certain it's because they knew I was physically adapted, I went to the gym every day for two hours and ran five miles four days a week, feats that will never occur in my life again or that you wouldn't expect that I'd ever been capable of judging by my appearance now. Schemes like these were a near nightly event; they would dilute and the act of returning to the barracks in one piece would become the common goal by closing time.
I was returning back to our barracks with my drinking buddy, a great big tall Polish guy who was also a Marine. Marine's and Navy guys had an unspoken 'no fraternizing' rule that neither of us paid much attention to; he was old enough to drink, I was old enough to drink and we had a great vibe out at bars, if that vibe was that neither of us knew how to keep our mouths shut but at the same time we were both too large and ominous to be told to shut up... or be shut off. We stumbled into the barracks and we headed to the vending machines, we'd returned too late for the McDonald's to serve us food on the command, and we had to rely on the machines for a crappier alternative than fast food; we also had to rely on what change we had in our pockets. Zoom pulled out a ten dollar bill and found the change machine broken, our class leader came out to survey the damage we'd caused ourselves and was snickering standing next to us. Zoom turned to him and asked if he had change for a ten, and he said yes, took his ten dollars and put it in his pocket, gave him nothing in return. Zoom thanked him, then the unbalanced exchange registered in his mind and he fumbled with the nothing in his hands. He looked over to me for backup, and I'd put a dollar in the vending machine that was not being accepted, instead it was entering and exiting the bill slot while I was trying to no avail to grasp it. Times like these were not times for defense, instead we'd be in tears of laughter trying to decide who'd had too much to drink and who's fault it was. These were fun nights, soon replaced by less fun nights, but who wants to talk about those???