Prince and Purple Rain
By: Garland Davis
The news today about the death of entertainer Prince brought memories of a time when Prince and Purple Rain almost got my ass kicked.
I was on my twilight tour completing thirty years in the Navy. I was assigned as Bachelor Quarters Officer at a base in Hawaii. A major inspection of the BEQ and BOQ operations and facilities was scheduled for December, a little over thirty days before I retired. The sweat pumps were running at full capacity because a good grade would put us in competition for the award for best Bachelor Quarters in the Navy. An award similar to the Ney Award.
One afternoon, the Commander comes into my office and asks, “Chief, when did you attend BEQ/BOQ Management School? I don’t have that information in the files.
“I never attended the school sir,” was my reply.
“But, the school is a requirement for your billet. This is a major discrepancy on the inspection. Why didn’t you attend?” He asked.
“The command was supposed to get a school quota for me after I reported, but the Commander, at the time, said it wasn’t important. And besides, we had a couple of major projects with the opening of the new BEQ and later the BOQ Annex. The school was forgotten and just fell through the cracks.” I said.
The Commander said, “I have to figure out how to fix this.” and left.
About an hour later he called and asked me to come over to the Supply building to his office. Upon my arrival, he said, “Chief, it is a four-week school. I have got a quota for you in the class beginning next week. You will leave here Saturday.”
I protested that it would be a great waste of money since I would retire less than two months after completing the course. He told me that the Captain was adamant that the discrepancy be corrected and the subject wasn’t open for discussion. So I went home and packed my bags for the trip to NAS Memphis, Tennessee. I dug out my dress blues and winter working blues. I packed some Levi’s, polo shirts and a jacket. I didn’t have any long sleeved shirts. It would be cold in Tennessee. Something that Hawaii didn’t prepare one for.
Arriving in Millington Sunday morning, I was assigned a room in the CPO quarters. A number of the other CPO’s were there for the same reason I was. Bachelor Quarters School. With the exception of two PO1’s the entire class consisted of Chiefs.
Like all Navy schools that I have attended, this course gave you a lot of material in a short time. After the first two weeks, the pace slackened and the Chiefs in the class relaxed and started talking about a liberty run to the FRA for Friday night. One of them had driven and had his car there. The problem was, if they were going drinking, they needed a designated driver. Tennessee was hell on DUI. At the time, I was training for a half marathon and was going through one of my no drinking phases. I volunteered to drive them.
The FRA Club at Millington was off the beaten track, out in the boonies. Because of the crackdown on DUI, the club was faring poorly financially. In an effort to increase revenue, management turned a blind eye to checking the membership credentials of the patrons. So when we arrived the clientele consisted of a mixture of active and retired Navy members as well as a group of locals.
It was typical of Navy bars worldwide, stools at the bar, a few tables, and a jukebox spewing country music. We went in and found a table. There being no one to wait tables, we trooped to the bar and ordered. After my fellow Chiefs had their drinks, I told the lady behind the bar that I was driving and would just have a Club Soda. She put a lemon wedge in the Club Soda, she said it looked like I was drinking and would avert questions. She told me it was no cost to the designated driver and I could get a refill anytime I wanted.
As the evening moved on, we mingled with the retirees and locals talking, telling stories, and drinking. I was at the bar talking with a local fellow and his girlfriend. They were fascinated that I lived in Hawaii and were asking questions about the place. I asked the bartender for another drink, she took my glass and returned it with Club Soda and a lemon wedge.
This fellow who had been sitting at the end of the bar drinking alone all evening got up walked over and asked the bartender, “Why don’t he have to pay for his drinks? I been watching yall and you been giving him free drinks all night long.”
The bartender told him that I was just drinking soda because I was driving and that it was free to designated drivers. He turned to me and said, “What do you want to drink, I’ll buy you some real likker.”
I said, “I appreciate the offer, but I’m not drinking, I am the driver tonight.”
He said, “That’s what I figured you’d say. You must be a Yankee. No balls.”
“What makes you say that, sir?” I asked.
“Well, you ain’t drinkin’, you got all that Jewelry on.” I was wearing a watch, a gold bracelet, my wedding ring and a birthstone ring. “An’ you’re wearing a short-sleeved shirt and you ain’t got no socks on. It’s colder than a well diggers ass in Tennessee in December and you ain’t got no goddam socks on. You must be from up north somewhere.”
I said, “Sir you are right I am from North.”
He asked, “Where up north?”
Everyone in the bar had been listening and burst out laughing when I said, North Carolina.
The local fellow got red in the face and said, “I don’t take to people funning me. I’m gonna whup your ass.”
The other locals in the bar grabbed him and settled him down. He went back to his position at the bar. I kept a wary eye on him. He seemed to be paying a lot of attention to me. I had grown up among rednecks and knew how they felt about being belittled and having people laugh at them.
I walked over to the jukebox dropped some coins in and looked over the music selections. The first thing that caught my eye was “Purple Rain” by Prince. I played it and a couple by Willie. As I walked back to the bar, the song Purple Rain began. That redneck yelled, “I knowed you was a goddam Yankee, and that Yankee song proves it.”
Suddenly, I was ducking and blocking punches until his friends grabbed him and hustled him out of the place. We figured it was time to go also. My passengers were hungry and wanted to go find Wendy’s.
And that is my greatest memory of Prince.
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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.