Beer and Decisions
By: Garland Davis
Most people use certain procedures and receive help from outside sources to make decisions, both large and small, that affect them and their lifestyle. While growing up, the primary influence is from the parents, family members, teachers, and, as one moves into the teen years, their peers become the primary source motivating decisions. No one wants to differ from the crowd and the great efforts a person makes to emulate others becomes a driving influence on most life decisions from the brand of soft drink, the style of undergarments one chooses, or the haircut you sport.
As you move into adulthood, experience, accumulated knowledge, societal morals, and other influences motivate decision making. Once I entered the Navy, many of these decisions were already made for me. All I had to do was conform to the regulations. Looking back on my late teens and advancing into my twenties and my early, and exciting years as a sailor in the Asia Fleet, I now realize that one of the biggest factors influencing my decision making was beer.
I grew up in the hillbilly enclave of Western North Carolina where, more often than not, moonshine was the drink of choice. Actually, it was often the only thing available as most of the state was “dry.” Moonshine did the trick, but when the county authorized its sale, I learned to love beer.
Arriving at NAS Lemoore, California is 1961, after boot camp, I learned the sophisticated sailor’s choice of libation was Olympia beer. Not wanting to be different, I became a connoisseur of Oly. It prompted and assisted me in making many decisions. And they weren’t always good decisions.
Olympia’s influences were not always the best. For instance, Oly decided that I should enter the bull riding event in an amateur rodeo. Being easy going I went along and signed. I didn’t realize the stupidity of that decision until they pulled the gate and I ended up on my ass, with a broken arm. By the way, I was still in the chute. The bull left without me!
Another time, after imbibing a quantity of this sterling product of Tumwater, Washington, another fool and I decided to go from Fresno to Los Angeles. We only had enough money for one-way bus tickets. We thought we would hitch hike back. We barely made it back to the base, hungover, sick, and sleepless, after hitchhiking and walking all night. That was one of the longest, most miserable days I have ever spent working in a Navy galley.
A year later, finally in the fleet and in WestPac, I was introduced to the quality fermented beverages of Kirin, Sapporo, Asahi, and that real detriment to sound decision making, San Miguel Beer. Not only did one make foolish decisions, the actions were often repeated. For example, I was a pretty good poker player, and, more often than not, was a winner in the nickel and dime games played on the mess decks. After a few beers, I decided that I was good enough to play in the higher stakes games played at CS1’s house on weekends. Lost my ass a few times, always after the beer of the moment convinced me that playing in that game was a sound decision.
In Yokosuka, a bluejacket could check a case of American beer, or bottle of whiskey, into a Japanese bar for a fee. The sailor was given a ticket and a number was marked off each time one of the beers was ordered. The tickets were usually good for three days and then unless another fee was paid, the beer became the property of the bar. It was common practice to check cases in three or four bars so one could bar-hop and have cheap beer available. The night before the ship sailed became a marathon of trying to drink all the beer checked into the various bars. Not always the best decision!
But all the decisions prompted by beer were not bad. In 1964, I received orders to the Commissary Store, Yokohama, Japan. The only thing I can say is that, in 1964, duty in Yokohama was akin to going to heaven. The single enlisted men lived in an old Army BOQ. We had private rooms and there was maid service available for a pittance. The maids did laundry, shined shoes, made beds, and cleaned the rooms. Most of the maids were older women who spoke little or no English. When a sailor wanted to communicate with his maid, he would go to the Billet Office and have the young girl that worked there translate for him.
We were drinking beer and someone asked if I was bringing a date to the Navy Day Ball. That was when the beer kicked in. I told them that I was going to ask the girl from the Billet Office. They laughed and told me that she didn’t date sailors. Many had tried and failed. After a couple of more beers, I decided that now was a good a time as any to ask her. So off to the Billet Office I went. To make a long story short, ten months later, she became my wife. We have now been together for over fifty years. If it wasn’t for the beer, I may have believed my shipmates and not have mustered the courage to ask her.
Another decision that began as a poor choice actually worked out well. I was in China Town drinking with some shipmates. We decided to go to the club and walked out to find a taxi. I saw a puppy in the window of the pet store next door to the bar. The puppy was cute, I was tanked up on beer and decided to buy him. I carried the puppy home and gave him to my wife. In the taxi on the ride home, I was worried that she would be upset that, I had spent money on a dog. That cute little puppy, Taro, grew up to be a beautiful Akita and became her companion through many deployments. He was with us for fourteen years.
I was probably thirteen or fourteen when I drank my first beer. That means beer has been assisting me with my decision making for the last fifty-six or fifty-seven years. I have lived a good and eventful life. I choose to believe beer contributed more positively than negatively to the decisions that led to the present.
I do know that it has been a helluva of a ride and without the beer, it would not have been as near as much fun.
If you attend the Asia Sailor reunion in Branson this year, look for me in the chair nearest the cooler!
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A native of North Carolina, Garland Davis has lived in Hawaii since 1987. He always had a penchant for writing but did not seriously pursue it until recently. He is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, where he majored in Business Management. Garland is a thirty-year Navy retiree and service-connected Disabled Veteran.