By: David McAllister
I had just returned to the orient after spending three years teaching baby Machinist Mates their rate at Great Lakes Naval Training Center. Beyond ready to return to what I considered my home, I found myself, once again and at last, back in Subic. I had fascinated over this moment ever since my detailer had given me the word that my term of Expat detention was over. The most beautiful sight I had seen in a long time, she was slender with great curves and glided with an uncommon grace in spite of her slightly swaybacked countenance. As she slid up alongside I could hardly wait to climb on and get into her. She was the Seventh Fleet Flagship and I had known her for almost as many years as I had served as a North American Bluejacket.
Once the brow was over, I stepped aboard smartly saluted the ensign, turned and saluted the Officer of the Deck, a fellow Chief, and requested permission to come aboard. After receiving his permission I stepped down off the brow; presenting him with my orders, he stuck out his hand, welcomed me aboard and said he would have the messenger show me to the Chief’s mess. “No need, I know the way,” I said, he nodded as we exchanged a knowing look that only old hands would understand.
I hoisted my gear, stepped through the door and negotiated the passageway back to the CPO mess. The sights, sounds, smells and organized confusion of a newly arrived ship stirred my awareness in an old familiar manner as I whispered below my breath, ‘Mac is Back’.
Upon entering the CPO mess I was greeted by a long mess table with several Chiefs seated behind steaming coffee mugs. Some I had known from earlier days and ships, others unknown to me introduced themselves, all welcomed me aboard. The mess area had a lounge with couches and chairs at the far end and turning aft from there led you into the berthing compartment. I quickly found a suitable rack with a nearby locker far enough from the head so as not to be bothered by its odiferous sights, sounds, smells and humidity. So, tossing my gear upon the rack, I set off to check out the main spaces. Then I met him, the other Chief Machinist Mate.
He was obviously heading ashore and stopped to introduce himself, which evolved into an odd encounter on many levels. First, I was sure that the engineering plant had not yet set up in port auxiliary steaming, and this guy was breasting out on liberty? Second, he was in company with a Filipino chief that turned out to be the MSCS in charge of the flag mess. In my mind, I found this to be a rather odd pairing. Finally, he was dressed as if he had just stepped out of the movie “Saturday Night Fever”- only not as well.
Brilliant cobalt blue slacks were mismatched with a pink floral print shirt, complete with long collars, unbuttoned to the naval. Four or five gold chains adorned an underdeveloped hairy chest atop a beer gut, while a white belt and white Cuban heeled fruit boots completed the outfit. The total look reminded me of an overripe pear in a dinner napkin. I found this to be totally bazaar, allowing that the polyester fabric of his pants and shirt couldn’t be conducive to comfort in the high heat and humidity of the Philippine Islands; not to mention all that gold going ashore in a country where just one of those chains would support an average poverty stricken local for months. To say the least his sartorial splendor and wisdom both left me underwhelmed and shaking my head in disbelief as I walked out of the mess towards the Log Room. I was trying to swallow this bad taste I always got in my mouth whenever I met someone I didn’t like. Recalling his invitation to drop by for a beer out in town, I made a mental note to follow up and check out this idiot later.
After a very brief peek into the Log Room, not exactly my domain of choice, I dropped down into Main Control. Here I found the MPA, an LDO ex-electrician type clearly out of his element, trying to secure the after plant and shift the load forward into an auxiliary steaming configuration. In addition to being an inherent know it all, he was further handicapped by the fact that he didn’t have a clue as to how clueless he actually was. Consequently, he was getting more resistance than cooperation from the seasoned watch standers that were only tolerating his presence. Hmmm! Disco Chief really needed to be here instead of where he was; I quickly made another mental note. Well, I hung out in Main Control until it appeared that the MPA was no longer in harm’s way of himself and then after a check of the after engine room and crew I was confident that “M” division, although having some solid hands, lacked leadership. This wasn’t going to get fixed today, so I eased back to the mess to get settled in and stow my gear.
1700 found me over in the Chiefs Club with an old shipmate having a much anticipated cold San Magoo and swapping sea stories while checking out the local talent that plied their trade there as so called legit hostesses. After a few libations, we found ourselves stroking across the bridge into PoTown with the Barrio on our minds. Just then my mental tickler went off and I asked where it was that Disco Chief hung out. Having imbibed just enough to be ornery, I wanted to see this fool in action.
Pearlas Super Club was about half way down Rizal Ave going towards the Victory Liner Station. It was a good sized cabaret style joint and upon entering we were immediately accosted with the ever present Peso for body exchange offerings. The large dance floor was crowded with couples dancing to the disco stylings of one of the many talented copy cat bands that frequented Olongapo in those days. Ironically, this band was heavy into renditions of the Bee Gee’s latest hits and it didn’t take long to zero in on Disco Chief. Impressing himself more than anyone else, his moves lacked anything close to rhythm and were completely out of time with the music. As is commonly seen in the PI, several little gals were mimicking him behind his back and everyone laughing at them led Disco to think he was the center of attention. As the music ended he struck his best John Travolta pose just as his dance partner stuck her hand on his crank and her other one in his pocket. Noticing us he strutted our way off the dance floor followed by his honey tucking her catch away into a bosom that, although wasn’t abundant, was adequate.
“Well, I see you finally found your way ashore, ” he said as he ordered a round of beers. As the band went on break, we grabbed a seat at his table where MSCS was engaged in a protracted private conversation in Tagalong with what I considered the best-looking hammer in the joint. I made another mental note. Apparently thinking I had just fallen off the turnip truck and joined the Navy on the mid watch, Disco Chief commenced to inform me about his prowess with the ladies and how he got along in the PI without ever having to pay for any. Despite the air-conditioned comfort of the bar, Disco Chief was soaked through. His pallid glistening skin combined with the wet polyester made for a slimy unwholesome appearance. A rancid odor hung about him; however, as long as he kept producing those Pesos, buying drinks for all the girls that had lit at the table after being beckoned by his sweetie, he was the center of attraction. Meanwhile, MSCS was steady talking shit to the same good looking gal, keeping his money pocketed and attention on her, I began to get the nature of this strange matchup of liberty buddies, Disco Chief was the trolling bait while the ever sly MSCS skimmed off the prime catch from the fishing waters. I made yet another mental note.
Our beers ran low as the band retook the stage. Disco Chief jumped up and with Sweetie in tow strutted towards the dance floor mimicking John Travolta as best he could. I was totally unimpressed and as the band began with a decent imitation of “Stayin Alive”, Disco Chief began a rhythmically challenged, nauseating gyration, totally out of time into what he thought to be a sexy dance step. Laying down some Pesos I bought them a round of beers, and we headed towards the door. I waved so long to the lecherous leering lunatic out on the dance floor, thinking “Stayin Alive” my ass it’s more like “Runnin on Empty”. This was going to be so easy.
Instead of the Barrio our next stop was the 1622, a beer joint just up the street. Now the Sixteen Delawa Delawa had the well-founded reputation of having the coldest beer and ugliest women in town; however, they had, at one time, a knockdown drop dead good looker that happened to be a boy. To my amazement, he was still there and my shipmate thought I was adrift when I bought him a couple of beers. I told him of this new shipmate I met today that was a real sharp dresser, fine dancer and best of all he liked boys that dressed as girls. Since this new shipmate was just up the street, I offered to pay this guys bar fine so that I may introduce them. The light had come on for my shipmate and Momma sans mouth is probably still hanging open to this day as we left the 1622 heading for Pearlas.
Now when I say this boy was good looking I mean he was the type that if you didn’t know what he was even a seasoned veteran could get into deep trouble. He was pretty. As we seated ourselves at Disco Chief’s table his mouth was open and speaking came in fits and spurts. I introduced them and bought some beers. My little boy took an immediate liking to Disco and quickly moved in for some action. Disco got this smug look on his face as he looked my way. I just gave him that ‘You the Man’ look and eased back for the show. Several dances later Disco was becoming very familiar with my little boy and couldn’t keep his hands to himself. By the flush of his cheeks, knew my little friend was having some containment problems of his own. Catching my shipmate’s eye, I nodded toward the door. We just about made it all the way out before the fight broke out at Disco’s table. I can’t even begin to guess who grabbed who by the dick first but the end result was the same. Over the shoulder, I caught Disco Chiefs eye as he was going down for the second time. Man, I had no idea that little girlie boy was such a tough customer but he was doing a fine job whipping Disco’s ass with his high heeled shoes.
As we made our way to the Barrio I was thinking, Quarters tomorrow morning was going to be interesting at best for this guy didn’t know it yet but Mac was in the enginehouse.