Yakitori Story

Yakitori story

By Brion Boyles

When I first returned to Sasebo, Japan on reenlistment leave in the early 1980’s and proposed to my girl Hitomi, she and Okasan (her mother and mamasan of the “BLUE MOON BAR AND GRILL”) spared no expense in catering to my desire to learn all things Japanese. This effort, naturally, centered on food—the shortest way to a man’s heart and all that. Mamasan was constantly throwing another bowl of this or that my way, and my cavernous appetite never disappointed her. Hitomi took a little more mischievous approach…she was always looking for something to throw me off….some strange food that a Gaijin (“foreigner”) would shrink from.

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One day she took me to a Yakitori grill in the entertainment section of town. A very traditional sort of place…a fancy, “faux ancient” affair; dark timbered, shoji doors, with kimono’d waitresses, live koto and shakuhachi music, pictures of the Emperor…obviously targeting the Samurai-loving sect. As this was to be as much an educational as gastronomic experience, I let Hitomi do all the ordering so I wouldn’t spend the evening in my traditional chicken/onion rut. She explained to the grill master that ol’ Gaijin here was meaning to expand his horizons, and quickly listed a cornucopia (or the Japanese equivalent thereof) of ancient and traditional yakitori treats.

I fancy myself a man of worldly tastes, with a sailor’s penchant for adventure; a combination that has rarely let me down. This time was no exception—a veritable feast of grilled tasties that would have brought a groan from the lips of Emperor Meiji himself. After an hour or so, Hitomi said there was one more for me to try. She got the grill master’s attention and said, “O-Suzume onegaishimasu!” (“Please make Suzume!”). The grill master’s eyebrows raised a little higher in quizzical disbelief…”HONTO?!?!” (“REALLY?!?”), to which she nodded firmly in the affirmative. A few minutes passed by, during which I mused at what the exquisite thing might be that she had saved for last…until the master placed before us another small plate with what looked like two small sparrows that had suffered the misfortune of having wooden spears shoved up their asses before being smashed flat with a croquet mallet, dipped in tar and scorched with a blowtorch. Little talons splayed wide, little yellow beaks smushed asunder in a gruesome Death-grin, little blackened clumps of feathers poking out like iron filings on a rusty magnet…

I made a pleasantly surprised face, trying to keep my cool…noticing the grillmaster eyeballing me from the corners of his eyes while he continued at his grill, Hitomi’s broad grin….I picked up one of the sticks of avian char-broiled corpse and brought it to my mouth. Just as I had made up my mind to bite off the head and moved to do so, Hitomi let out her girlish, Japanese laugh and said, “No….it’s OK. You no hafta eat. I buy for dog at home.”

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With a skillfully concealed sigh of relief, I returned the Suzume to the plate and she had it bagged for the trip back to the BLUE MOON and “Kojiro”, her Yorkie pup.

Our engagement lasted over two years, during which time I was mostly absent on a supply ship (USS WHITE PLAINS), scurrying across the Indian Ocean to refortify this aircraft carrier battle group or that…and a well-off Lieutenant from a destroyer wooed my Hitomi away with an engagement ring the size of an ashtray. A member of a wealthy Texas oil-family, he found his Japanese “Suzy Wong” and carted her off to Dallas, but I heard thru the grapevine that she was miserable… her Japanese roots buried deep in cowboy hats, Frederick Remington prints and bad leather furniture, and longed to come home to Sasebo.

To this day I wish I’d taken a bite.

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Ships That Go Bump In the Night

Plausibly Live

It was a very small mistake. Just a few words, one sentence. So small that nobody caught that it was missing. That’s it. The entire problem explained in more words and sentences than actually caused the problem in the first place. That little mistake has put my entire house buying adventure on hold – at least – and has made life very stressful for the past four days.

Now, you can say – and rightfully so – that the professionals involved should have known better. Or you could say – and rightfully so – that I should have caught it. After all, caveat emptor is the rule, right? And there is absolutely nothing that I can say in reply except that three people missed it.

Damn.

Life is full of little mistakes that have effects. Sometimes the mistakes have huge effects, seemingly out of proportion to their size. Sometimes they…

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The Galloping Ghost

theleansubmariner

I’M THE GALLOPING GHOST OF THE JAPANESE COAST

By Constantine Guiness, MOMM 1/C, USN

I’m the galloping ghost of the Japanese coast.
You don’t hear of me and my crew
But just ask any man off the coast of Japan.
If he knows of the Trigger Maru.

I look sleek and slender alongside my tender.
With others like me at my side,
But we’ll tell you a story of battle and glory,
As enemy waters we ride.

I’ve been stuck on a rock, felt the depth charge’s shock,
Been north to a place called Attu,
and I’ve sunk me two freighters atop the equator
Hot work, but the sea was cold blue.

I’ve cruised close inshore and carried the war
to the Empire Island Honshu,
While they wire Yokahama I could see Fujiyama,
So I stayed, to admire the view.

When we rigged to run silently, deeply I dived,
And…

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Fleet Activities Yokosuka Honors USS Fitzgerald

Fleet Activities Yokosuka Honors USS Fitzgerald

By FLEACT, Yokosuka Public Affairs | June 27, 2017

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YOKOSUKA, Japan – The Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka community showed their respect to the family and crew of USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) during a memorial ceremony June 27 for the seven Sailors who died tragically June 17 when their ship collided with a merchant vessel southwest of Yokosuka.

More than 2,000 members of the Yokosuka community lined the streets waving flags and rendering salutes for the crew and their family members as they traveled the one-mile route in a “Line of Honor” between FLEACT Yokosuka’s Chapel of Hope and the Fleet Theater where the private memorial service was held.

“I wanted to show my support to military families in this time of need,” said Karen Sobba, joined the Line of Honor. Sobba, whose husband is on USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), said coming out was a way to show her encouragement to the families. “This hits close to home, it could happen to any one of us,” added Sobba.

Showing respect to the crew and families was a common theme along the line.

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“I wanted to show my support to the families who lost loved ones,” said Robert James, a civilian employee at Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Far East. James’ children accompanied him on the line as he said he wanted them to see the importance of honoring the Sailors and their sacrifice.

The seven USS Fitzgerald Sailors perished when the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer collided with the ACX Crystal in the early morning hours of June 17, causing extensive damage to the ship, flooding compartments where the Sailors slept.

The 650-seat Fleet Theater was filled to capacity for the somber ceremony honoring the seven Sailors:

Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Virginia

Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego, California

Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Connecticut

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas

Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, California

Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Maryland

Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio

Adm. Scott Swift, Commander U.S. Pacific Fleet was aboard USS Fitzgerald surveying the damage and commented on the ship’s crew and their actions to save their ship.

“It’s stunning, absolutely stunning, while we mourn the loss of the seven Sailors, that more were not lost, and it was the heroism of the entire crew that ensured that was the case,” said Swift.

“There was no understanding of what had happened at the moment of impact,” said Swift, reflecting on the actions of the crew following the collision. “But there was complete understanding of what needed to be done. We fight the ship to save ourselves. Every time we go to sea, the ship is our sanctuary and all Sailors have to come together as a crew and fight their ship, and that is exactly what Fitzgerald did.”

MC1 Peter Burghart and Dan Taylor both contributed to this story.

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“All the Girls”

“All the Girls”

By: Garland Davis

“To all the girls who cared for me,

Who filled my nights with ecstasy;

They live within my heart;

I’ll always be a part

Of all the girls I’ve loved before.” — Willie Nelson

 

It was a bitch, nearly fucking impossible to maintain a relationship with that girl back home. You know the one you went to high school with. She had never noticed you until you showed up on boot leave sporting dress blues, a Dixie cup hat, and a faraway look in your eyes. Suddenly she was all moon-eyed and in love. You were only home on a seventy-two, but you would write each other every day. It was true love.

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Why, you ask, was it impossible? Any Dick back home with the most menial of jobs was John D. Rockefeller compared to a seventy-two buck a month Seaman Second halfway across the Pacific Ocean. And ole Dick was THERE and you weren’t! By the time a guy made Third Class and had a few more bucks, that girl had already moved on to college and was keeping company with some Dick who could afford a car. The last thing that young college girl wanted was for some North American Bluejacket to show up at her dormitory with a bag of dirty laundry and plans to shuck her out of her panties.

While you were floating around In the South China Sea dreaming of hot romantic interludes during your next leave, ole Dick with Papa’s money, his hot car, and his apartment became her Prince Charming. He had all the time in the world to charm and conquer her. You at best had a seventy-two before you deployed and the back seat of your Mom’s old De Soto.

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At about this point, the ship made a port call in Subic Bay, a shipmate introduced you to the fascinating world of commercial romance. This was a whole new aspect of female companionship leaving you time to do other things. It was not the world of romance novels… Didn’t involve any ballet, poetry, hoity-toity music, or getting all dressed up. And you could visit as many times as you could afford during a seventy-two. It was a Far East wedding night with the meter running.

You couldn’t expect mail from these girls. Although I have gotten a request from Olongapo asking if I would send money to help with Mother’s surgery. It seems Mama needs a brain transplant. (I am sure another sailor helped write that one.) No mail but if you left your skivvies, they might be waiting for you, freshly laundered.

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As time passed, you dreamed less of the girls back home and more about the girls in the next port. Pull into port, and head for your old girlfriend’s bar only to have her tell you that you should have written. She has a steady boyfriend off the Cruiser that is in port. She is so sorry and loves you, and she has a cute cousin whom she would love to introduce to you.

After a thirty-year Navy life, twenty-four years afloat in eight WestPac ships and hundreds of port visits, you find it hard to remember names and faces, they just become “All the Girls, I’ve Loved Before.”

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Old Navy

Old Navy

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Come gather round me lads and I’ll tell you a thing or two,

About the way we ran the Navy in nineteen sixty-two.

When wooden ships and iron men were barely out of sight;

I am going to give you some facts just to set the record right.

 

We wore the ol’ bell bottoms, with a Dixie cup or flat hat on our head;

And we always hit the sack at night but we never “went to bed.”

Our uniforms were worn ashore, and we were mighty proud;

Never thought of wearing civvies, in fact, they were not allowed.

 

Now, when a ship puts out to sea, I’ll tell you son, it hurts;

When suddenly you notice that half the crew’s wearing skirts.

And it’s hard for me to imagine, a female Boatswain’s Mate;

Stopping on the Quarterdeck to make sure her stockings are straight.

 

What happened to the KiYi brush, and the old salt-water bath:

Holystoning decks at night, ’cause you stirred old Bosn’s wrath!

We always had our gedunk stand and lots of pogey bait;

And it always took a hitch or two, just to make a rate.

 

In your seabag, all your skivvies were neatly stopped and rolled;

The blankets on your sack had better have a three-inch fold.

Your little ditty bag, it is hard to believe, just how much it held;

You wouldn’t go ashore with pants that hadn’t been spiked and belled.

 

We had scullery maids and succotash and good old S.O.S.;

And when you felt like topping off, you headed for the mess.

Oh, we had our belly robbers, but there weren’t too many gripes;

For the deck apes were never hungry and there were no starving snipes.

 

Now, you never hear of Davey Jones, Shellbacks or Polliwogs;

And you never splice the mainbrace to receive your daily grog.

Now you never have to dog a watch or stand the main event;

You even tie your lines today; back in my time they were bent.

 

We were all two-fisted drinkers and no one thought you sinned;

If you staggered back aboard your ship, three sheets to the wind.

And with just a couple hours of sleep you regained your usual luster;

Bright eyed and bushy tailed, you still made morning muster.

 

Rocks and shoals have long since gone, and now it’s U.C.M.J.;

Back then, the old man handled everything if you should go astray.

Now they steer the ships with dials, and I wouldn’t be surprised;

If some day they sailed the damned things from the beach computerized.

 

So, when my earthly hitch is over, and the good Lord picks the best,

I’ll walk right up to Him and say, “Sir, I have but one request.”

Let me sail the seas of Heaven in a coat of Navy blue.

Like I did so long ago on earth, way back in sixty two.”

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The Way It Was

The Way It Was

By: Garland Davis

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This is one from the heart. Not that you probably give a shit or have any reason to, but this is the opinion of an ex-Asia Sailor who paid his dues out on the Pacific Rim riding the old worn out haze gray steel of the Seventh Fleet during a couple of wars.

One was a “cold” war keeping the commie Russians at bay and the other was a “hot” war to keep the commie Vietnamese in the north. It is the ‘two cents worth’ of an old stewburner who was once afforded membership in, what he considers, the finest organization ever assembled…The United States Navy.

I learned respect for a heritage and a tradition established by generations before me all the way back to the British Royal Navy. I came to realize that I am a part of that which is the history of the U.S. Navy.

When I enlisted in the Navy every incoming sailor was given two books. This is Your Navy, by Theodore Roscoe and a Blue Jackets Manual

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The former was published by the U.S. Naval Institute to provide each incoming prospective bluejacket a single volume history of the Navy. It was written in the style of a yarn, a salty language adventure. The latter was a rudimentary “how to” course in becoming a sailor.

These two books and mail from home were the only permitted reading while in boot camp. Being a prolific reader, I consumed and then re-read both books a number of times during the eleven weeks I was at RTC San Diego. Somewhere along the way, both were lost. I have a couple of Blue Jackets Manuals, but not the one I was issued. I don’t even know if This is Your Navy is still in print.

The history of the Navy is a legacy that we inherited and is ours to pass, unsullied to future sailors. That is an obligation, a sacred duty to ourselves, our Navy, and our country.

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The uniform, the one referred to as a “Crackerjack suit” by the uninformed and uninitiated is our badge. That uniform in earlier forms is easily recognized by sailors today as the one worn by Civil War sailors…And every succeeding generation of North American Bluejacket since.

The U.S. Navy uniform is unique. First, no other service has maintained the continuity of their dress uniform. The thirteen-button low-neck jumper blues predate anything worn by our sister services. The Navy uniform is a symbol, recognized and respected by every sailor in the world.

The Navy Dress Blue Uniform lends itself to individual expression. Many sailors took eccentric liberties in the way they decorated and wore their beloved “Dress Canvas.” Many in authority turned a blind eye to the liberties taken in the wearing of the uniform.

The white hat was an integral part of the uniform. I was early enough into the Navy to have been issued a flat and had the opportunity to wear it once during a port call at Vancouver in Canada. The white hat presented the sailor with a number of ways to display his individuality. It could be rolled. It could be worn with “wings.” You chose the way you preferred and just did it, because sailors had always done it.

The neckerchief was another way to show your individuality. Some sailors meticulously took a dime and painstakingly rolled their neckerchiefs until they looked like a yard’s worth of garden hose. Lazy fuckers, like myself, would take their neckerchief to some shop on the Honch or out in Wanchai and have it rolled into a “greasy snake.” Pressed flat, it looked great and was light enough to blow all over hell in a light wind. Some tied the knot in their neckerchief regulation style at the bottom of the ‘V’ of their jumper collar. I always liked a high knot a couple of inches above the ‘V’.

The thirteen button blue melton bell bottom trousers had a small pocket for a pocket watch. By the time I enlisted in 1961 it had become a Zippo pocket. You tucked your cigarettes in your sock and folded your wallet over the waistband of the trousers under your jumper. Every bar girl, hooker, and pick pocket knew the exact location. A real set of thirteen-button blues had no belt loops. Instead there were a series of eyelets right above the terminal point of your ass crack called ‘gussets’ and you had a shipmate lace them up and square knot them to your size. It was ‘Navy’… Old Navy… Back then, being ‘Old Navy’ was damned important.

The only thing that went into your jumper pocket was your liberty card and I.D. card. Anything else and it looked like shit. If you wore whites, reaching in your pocket for stuff would get it dirty. Hong Kong tailored blue jumpers were usually made with inside pockets for securing liberty funds. Hong Kong was the place to have the cuffs of your blues decorated. Called liberty cuffs, the inside if the cuffs were embroidered with colorful pictures so that when you rolled the cuffs back they were visible. I had dragons on my cuffs.

So you decked yourself out in dress canvas. You rolled across your quarterdeck… Requested permission to leave the ship… Popped a snappy salute to the colors aft and you were off to terrorize the female population. You were a member of the greatest Navy in history and you looked like an American bluejacket. Because that is what you were.

You were what every saltwater sailing son of a bitch longed to be. In the early 1960’s we all knew in our hearts that it would always be this way. It was the greatest uniform of all the services of all the countries. No one would ever be so fucking stupid as to let that uniform go. We knew that our sons and grandsons would someday wear that symbol or our Navy.

At the time it was called Indo-China, nobody knew where it was. No one gave a fuck, but it was to change our lives and our Navy. Nobody had ever heard of Elmo Zumwalt. In 1970, President Nixon nominated him, over much more senior Admirals, to become Chief of Naval Operations. He was the forward thinker who invented saltwater mediocrity and the political correctness bullshit. He issued Z-grams that relaxed grooming standards; permitted civilian clothing aboard ship and became the harbinger of myriad uniform changes to come.

Somewhere along the way, somebody decided thirteen button blues were outdated and for decades since have changed the uniforms to the point that a sailor now resembles a Marine. Seldom are dress uniforms seen. Now it is Aquaflage instead of dungarees and civilian clothes ashore instead of sharp sailors with pride in their Navy, their ship, and themselves.

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I don’t know what reading material is issued in boot camp these days, probably some bullshit about how to be politically correct, and not to make sexual advances to your male or female shipmates.

They trashed the dear and meaningful for a bunch of superficial, meaningless horseshit and called it progress… Shame on the bastards.

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