Adrian and Aqua Velva

Adrian and Aqua Velva

by Bob ‘Dex’ Armstrong


The ‘Stookeyman’ loves his music. Short of cutting out his tongue and pop riveting the idiot’s lips together there is no way you can stop him from ‘singing his tunes’. They were and unfortunately, always will be his trademark.

Those of you who rode submersible craft that sucked sustenance through a fuel hose will remember the smell of Aqua Velva and the lunacy that broke out in the after battery two minutes after the Old Man announced that we were making turns for home.

For several weeks you had lived in a compartment constantly in red light because the ugly bastards that were your shipmates slept in rotating shifts. Meaning there were always sonuvabitches trying to sleep. Any idiot who was dumb enough to turn on ‘white light’ in a berthing compartment would be instantly greeted by wholesale obscenity, boots, shoes and the latest hardback selections of the ‘Book of the Month.’ You could actually die like the folks in the Bible did who got stoned to death. Or be maimed to the point you would have to be transferred to a Mexican minesweeper.

But when the skipper turned the old girl in the direction of Pier 22, the white light came on and the channel fever Mardi Gras began.

The place looked like a hobo village that had been carpet-bombed.

The Smithsonian has a submarine centennial exhibit that shows what life in the undersea navy was like. If they showed a re-creation of a diesel boat after battery compartment after six weeks on the snorkel, mothers would mercy kill their male offspring before they would allow the lads to sign up for the boat service.

A complete moron would have no problem figuring out the origin of the term ‘pigboat’. Even a self-respecting zoo has guys who show up regularly to hose the doo-doo out of the cages. But what the hell, it was the life we loved and nesting in dirty laundry, sour towels and weird smelling flash pads came with the twin fish over your pocket and it was always the ‘maids day off’.

So there we were, happier than clams, rooting though side lockers for soap… Toothbrushes, combs… A little Lucky Tiger hair tonic… A “little dab’ll do ya” Brylcreme… Vitalis… You name it. Old Spice… Mennen’s skin bracer… And that old boat sailor’s stand-by, Aqua-Velva. The place smelled like the parlor in a New Orleans cathouse. Guys would line up for showers… No more water ration.

The showers on the old smokeboats were half the size of a Volkswagen glove box. You had to Crisco your ass to turn around in one of the damn things. Enginemen, like Mike Hemming used to use paint scrapers and Varsol to get down to where soap would do any good.

A good time was had by all.

Then it would happen…

The ‘Stookeyman’ would emerge from the shower, comb his hair, look in the mirror and say,

“Mirror, Mirror on the wall… Who is the handsomest sonuvabitch in The Second Fleet? You’re right Mirror… Adrian ‘Get in line, ladies’ Stuke.”

He would put on his Hollywood shades and flip-flops and toss his towel over his shoulder and enter the compartment doing his Aboriginal war dance and singing…

“I wonder, wonder whooo oo-oooo? Who wrote the book of love?”

“Adrian Stuke wrote the book of love… Is that right girls? You’ve got it… That’s right ladies, no need to push and shove… Just take a number and get in line… There is enough of ‘Mr. Wonderful’ to go around… Bring your mothers, your sisters and your aunts… Big and small, short and tall… The man from Quincy can please them all. God’s gift to the women of the world will be passing the Chesapeake Lightship shortly and your prayers will be answered and your wildest fantasies will be fulfilled”

“I wonder, wonder whooo oo-oooo? Who wrote the book of love?”

“I not only wrote it you little darlings… I make house calls… Trailer park visits… Give back seat instructional sessions and make personal charity appearances at old folks homes and Methodist picnics. Adrian Stuke could be the one to make a moment in his arms the highpoint of your life. Don’t miss your opportunity… You will regret it the rest of your life. Adrian Stuke is brought to you by Arliegh Burke and The United States Navy, the same folks who gave you World War II and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. ‘Mr. Wonderful’ will be appearing for a limited engagement… Hang your bloomers on the bedpost, leave the porch light on and the door unlocked.”

“Hey Dex…”


“When you get to the Des-Sub Piers Gate and find a mob of females waiting on the ‘Modern Miracle from Quincy’… Organize them in a line, in the order of descending bust size… And tell the gals at the back of the line to go home and take a bath and I’ll catch them tomorrow night. Pick yourself out an ugly one, the ‘Stookeyman’ can afford to be generous to his shipmates.”

“Hey Stuke”

“Yeah babe?”

“You know what is beginning to worry me?”

“What’s that horsefly?”

“I think you are starting to believe this horseshit.”

“No doubt about it… And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

“Hey oh great and wonderful wizard.”

“That’s me.”

“If we can scrape up a few bucks you wanna go up to Little Italy and catch a pizza when we get in?”

“Sounds good to me.”

“I wonder, wonder whooo oo-oooo? Who wrote the book of love?”

Any low numbered boat that didn’t have an Adrian Stuke must have had a dull moment or two…

We never did.