By: Thayer Ward
Long story, but hopefully you enjoy it and find it worth reading through!
2004, deployment. I was a dirtbag. Knew my stuff, good at my job, but still a dirtbag.
We pulled into Palau. The whole country (tiny island country, very beautiful) loved that we were there. My liberty partner and I checked into our hotel, and 4 other guys are staying there hanging out as well, got their own rooms.
I went out back for a smoke. I looked around and realized how beautiful, but how poor, the place was. As I glanced right, I saw an old Filipina lady on the top floor of a 3 story apartment building sweeping. She looked down and over and saw me. She smiled and waved, I smiled and waved back. She asked if I was from the ship, which I replied yes. She told me to wait there, goes in, and comes back out with 3 young Filipina women. They all beckon me over.
I run back inside, change, brush my teeth, fix my hair, and spray on some cologne. The other guys are all wondering what’s up, and I told them I was working on something, give me a bit.
I walked next door, walked up the stairs, and the old Filipina lady welcomed me in. I enter the seemingly small apartment, and she sat me down on the couch. Immediately 8 young, beautiful Filipina women came out of the woodworks. They asked me if I was hungry if I wanted rice or a burger or steak or ice cream. I declined. One sat down next to me, and I realized I had been claimed. She asked if I wanted to go to her bar that evening, and of course, I said yes. She gave me directions and made me promise to bring others. They then sent me on my way.
I told the guys the plans, and they were ecstatic. I explained what happened, and they opened my eyes to Filipina bar girls. My first time dealing with this, so I was clueless, yet it made sense.
We went out to grab a bite across the street at the Chinese restaurant (only one in the country). When we walked out, we decided to take a cab to the bar. They asked me where the place was and I told them. Turns out it was across the street and slightly right from the Chinese restaurant, and in fact, if I walked out the front of our hotel, walked down the six steps, across the 10 feet of covered concrete slab, and up the five steps of the building next door, I was at the bar. Made for an easy walk back to the hotel. (I want to say the hotel was here: https://goo.gl/maps/A7hF7iLoFm52 but not sure).
So, we headed in. It seemed more like a regular bar than a buy-me-drinkee bar (as I later learned). The young lady, Michelle, sat me down and asked me what I wanted to drink. Jack and Coke of course. Her sister, the bartender, made it for me. $3.50 for a nice sized drink, little ice, that was properly made as Jack with a splash of Coke. The kicker was that her drink was only $5 and she drank exactly what I did! She couldn’t quite hang, but boy did she try.
We enjoyed our time there. I had duty the third day. Came back out, had more fun. The last night there, I did something stupid. We had a new guy, and I went out with him, showed him a good time. I was so wrapped up with Michelle that I liberty buddy swapped without going back to the ship and properly signing the log, with the new guy.
When I got on the ship, I got my butt chewed by my LPO and our Department LCPO, OSCS Arce. Liberty risk Bravo, no drinking, back on the ship by 2200 next port. If I didn’t do anything wrong, it would graduate to Alpha next port (no drinking, back at 2359), then no liberty risk with no overnight liberty the port after (drinking allowed), then back to normal liberty the port after.
Next port we hit was Yokosuka for 2 weeks. I had been there before. Still got off base to do tourist stuff, but kept my nose clean. That is, until my buddies, Tillman and Rav (nickname Ravioli because he had a big tattoo of a ravioli tattooed front and back, with the fork stuck in front and the tines coming out the back), decided to take me out. Rav was also on liberty risk Bravo and Tillman had to escort us.
We headed out. We went to Shibuya. Tillman had a buddy that retired and opened a restaurant there. We went looking for it. We walked for an hour or more, couldn’t find the place. We stopped at a Japanese restaurant. Rav and I had Japanese spaghetti, best ever! We figured, it’s not even noon, we don’t have to be onboard until 2200, let’s have a couple drinks (surprisingly Tillman’s idea, but we were happy to oblige). We had a couple shots of Wild Turkey and a couple Kirin beers.
We kept walking, looking for Tillman’s buddy’s place, but after 45 minutes, he said forget it. “What should we do?” “Well, I saw a Gas Panic back there a few blocks,” I said. So we headed off. We figured, it’s not even 1300, we can have a few and sober up before we head back.
So we were just about there when we ran into this guy, another gaijin, sitting on a low concrete wall. He asked me in broken English “Excuse me, you have…you have…tobacco?” “Yes, I have a cigarette. Would you like one?” We sat down and started talking with this guy. Cool guy.
Tillman checked out Gas Panic and said it didn’t open until 1500. At that point, this guy, who is from Nepal on Vacation, pulls a fifth of Jack out of his backpack. So we all sit there, taking swigs from the fifth, talking, smoking (making sure to ash in the dirt and put the extinguished butts in the trash, because those streets are just so dang clean!) and having a good time with this guy.
We finished the bottle, and the guy brings out a second one, so we start into that. We soon realized it’s just after 1500, and Gas Panic was open. We invited the guy from Nepal (we called him Steve because we couldn’t pronounce his name) with us and offered to buy his drinks since he so kindly shared with us. Steve joined up, and we went into Gas Panic.
Now, I am not sure if they had them during your time, but Gas Panic was like the Circle K of bars. They were everywhere around Tokyo it seemed. We went in first ones there. We grab some beers and look around. Cool place with 80s paraphernalia all around. A DJ with a sign that said: “no requests” asking us what we wanted to listen to. 70s/80s classic rock most of the evening! Metallica, ACDC, Deff Leopard, GNR, etc.
At one point, I looked up to see…BEER BONGS! 3 of them! The guys behind the counter had never used them, didn’t know what they were for. We gladly showed them. At one point Steve disappeared. At another point, Rav went into the bathroom and puked (came back out and continued as a true sailor would). While he was there, I had Tillman hit me with a chug. Finished up my beer, said “Hit me!” and he poured his beer into the beer bong, and I hit that. I said “Hit me again!” and he said “I don’t have anything” and I demanded back “HIT ME AGAIN!” He poured something down, I slugged it, then looked at him and asked: “What was that?” “Your Long Island Iced Tea, ” he said, at which point I put the beer bong down and said, “I think I’m good.”
So, 2000 approaches, and we realize we need to get back. We finish our beers, close our tabs, and head back to the ship.
A little back story. When we went to exchange money at Hotel New Yokosuka, I noticed as we walked in the umbrella rack. You put your umbrella into a slot, turned an orange key (like the ones at public swimming pools or airports), and it locked your umbrella in. LoJack for umbrellas! I noticed everyone carrying one, so we went to the Daison and I picked one up, a cheap, clear, green-tinted plastic one.
So, back to the main story. On the Keikiu Green Line from Yokohama to Yokosuka, 3 stops to go. First stop, we’re good. Second stop, we’re good. 5 minutes from the third stop, I’m looking about the color of my umbrella. I start up, but swallow it back down. Start up, swallow it down again. Start up, can’t swallow it down, cover up my mouth, it starts leaking, Tillman hands me my umbrella, and I unleash…into a see-through, green-tinted, plastic umbrella…on the train pulling into the terminal. We pull into Yokosuka, and I step onto the terminal from the train, still yakking.
I finally finish, toss the umbrella (I wanted to empty it and clean it out, and tried, but the spaghetti noodles just wouldn’t let go), and we’re on our way.
Now, this was at the time when piers were either in short supply or were being remodeled, or there were just too many ships inport. We were docked at an old barge-turned-floating-dock. They sealed most of it up with those big steel plates. As I’m walking to the ship, staggering like I had been out to sea for 50 days straight, I get the bright idea that I will walk the weld lines for the steel plates to try to keep straight. Unfortunately, the steel plates weren’t welded in even heights. Almost broke my ankle doing that.
To sign back in from liberty, both Rav and I have to sign the liberty risk log. It’s a 3-ring notebook, and we each have our own page with a picture and what level we were on. Tillman goes up to the OOD (ENS Spillane) and runs interference. Rav signs in no problem and heads to the smoke deck. I sign in, and just as I’m about to leave, ENS Spillane stops me, grabs the log, opens it to my picture and says “That’s you, isn’t it!?” Crap, caught. I said yes, and he said “Okay, just be careful, don’t fall down the ladder wells. Someone already did that tonight.” So I headed off to the smoke deck.
And so that was the first, and last, time I drank on liberty risk. I soon gained the confidence back from my COC (especially the CO) and was off Liberty risk for the next port, just in time to properly enjoy Hong Kong for the first time. But that is for another story…