Warning: This story has been pieced together from shitty memory and an erratic idea of the events that took place.
The Navy Corpsman. A token Sailor in the midst of a rabid pack of mongrels. your Corpsman is supposed to be your voice of reason. He’s the guy that says “You shouldn’t be doing that” on a Saturday night at the barracks when your platoon is shitfaced and piling up mattresses so they can jump off the roof. He’s the one that reaffirms your commanding officer’s orders that “You should be wearing a condom” when you’re about to runoff with a woman that looks like she’s been ran through by every Marine on base. He’s the one that says “Don’t eat that, it’ll give you diarrhea” when you’re in country and offered food by a local. Do you ever listen to your Corpsman? Rarely. But is he usually right about telling you not to do something? yes. your Corpsman understands the importance of thinking things through before you do them, because he’s always the one that has to break into the BAS (Battalion Aid Station) in the middle of the night in order to get IV bags when your friends have brought you back from a night of drunken debauchery and you’re almost in a coma. He’s the one that has to deal with your impulsive senselessness 24/7—whether it be in garrison, in the field, or on deployment. And even though you choose to ignore his wise words of wisdom the majority of the time, he’s always there for you.
One of my Corpsmen, Doc Charlie, knew this routine all too well. if there was any unit in the Marine Corps that could make a responsible person’s hair fall out before legal drinking age, it was ours. we had Ski in our platoon for God’s sake.
But this story isn’t about Ski. It’s about Doc Charlie.
Doc Charlie was a first generation Vietnamese-American. like any stereotypical Asian-American, he dressed nice, was well-spoken, probably was too smart to be around enlisted Marines, and always strived for career advancement. As a result of his sensible choices in life, it was really hard for us to get him out to have a wild time with us. It’s as if he always had one of those shoulder angel situations going on. you know, where the iconographic cloven hoofed devil (Marine) is standing on one side, saying, “C’mon, Doc, it’s just a donkey show in Tijuana, have a little fun,” and the winged angel (his domineering father) is standing on the other side, saying, “If you do this, you won’t get all A’s, then you won’t get accepted into medical school, then you won’t get a good job, then you’ll start smoking crack, then you’ll end up living in the ghetto, and then you’ll die.”
To me, there were no safer people to spend it with than Doc and his good friend (and my gunner) big Sal. Doc had his shit locked down and big Sal had a consistent disposition, himself. Maybe we have a little dinner, get a few drinks, and make it back to ship intact. well, unbeknownst to me, Doc Charlie was going to take this opportunity—away from all the mainland constraints—to completely lose his shit.
To be honest with you, I wouldn’t have known what to expect from him anyway. the only times we ever hung out outside of work was when I’d go screaming into his room at awkward hours of the night, complaining to him about the latest disease I thought I had just contracted.
The three of us exited the ship just as the sun was going down, hopped in a cab, and took off to downtown Honolulu.
As we began to make our way down a busy road, I suggested we find a nice local place to eat, “Let’s go to Applebee’s.”
“What?” Doc said with a confused face. “No, Chewy. No fucking food. That’s dumb. Let’s go into that bar over there.”
I never pass up a good idea, no matter how dumb it is.
I think big Sal was the oldest out of all of us, but he wasn’t much of a partier. same thing with Doc Charlie. I had just turned twenty-one, so my only drinking experiences previous to this was having my NCOs shove Bud Light down my throat.
We took our seats at a table in the bar and Doc asked the waitress the most important question of the night: “What’s gonna get us the most fucked up?”
The waitress seemed a little taken aback by his direct question, “Uh… you’ll probably want some Long Island Ice Teas.”
“We’ll have three Long Island Ice Teas. please hurry,” responded Doc.
I remember my first sip. It changed my life forever. It was as if my mouth turned into a Caribbean Paradise (the rum), and a group of Russian Paratroopers (the vodka) and Mexican Vaqueros (the tequila) decided to dance around in a West Side story type of fight scene with an 18th Century British Lord (the gin) officiating the whole thing. Sweet multicultural nectar, it was.
Doc Charlie and big Sal must have felt the same way because they were taking down their drinks faster than a back alley bum. Before the waitress could even make it a few steps away, Doc was ordering more Long Islands.
Now, please remember, we had been under a lot of pressure up to this point. all we had been doing was training for months, and all we had to look forward to was Iraq. This should have been a perfect opportunity for us to engage in some stimulating conversation that would put our minds at ease. But anybody that’s ever served in the military knows that the first thing you do when you get a little bit free time is spend it bitching about work and getting yourself even more pissed off.
I think this—based off my own shitty recollection—might have gone on for about an hour or two. the waitresses at the bar were funneling drinks to us like assembly line workers. But since I was getting quite tossed myself, I guess I didn’t notice the exact moment when Doc’s whole demeanor changed. He just… he just snapped.
I looked over to see Doc, whose face was flushed with red fury, holding the neck of broken beer bottle. He just smashed it into the wall for no apparent reason. Just flat-out rage, I guess.
And that’s when the bouncer got called. Not just any type of bouncer, though. No, he was Samoan. I’m talking about the gigantic “I bench press Volvos and eat whole pigs” type of Samoan. Furthermore, he had an overabundance of tattoos adorning his body. I’m not an expert on Hawaiian tattoos, but I know they weren’t your standard tribal tats. they looked more like prison tats. we. were. Fucked.
So, what does our Corpsman—our voice of reason—do when he sees this goliath approach us? the motherfucker squares up into a fighting stance.
“When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way. from your first cigarette to your last dyin’ day.”
This looked like it was going to be our dying day.
You know that scene in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark when that giant boulder is rolling towards Indie as he tries to make his way out of the dark cave with the artifact in his arms? That’s exactly what it looked when Sal and I snatched up Doc as the giant Samoan chased us out of the establishment. As we’re funneling Doc out of the building, big Sal reached into his pocket and started throwing cash at the bouncer so we could at least have our tab covered. Just a scene of complete mayhem: dollar bills flying through the air, everyone’s pissed off at us, and Doc’s just laughing his ass off.
We got outside of the bar and ran down the street a few blocks in order to reorganize.
“Dude, dude, we’re so fucked. the cops are gonna be showing up any minute,” I blurted out.
“Relax, Chewy,” said big Sal in his East-LA brogue. “Quit bein’ a bitch. we paid the tab. Let’s just go to another place.”
“I dunno, man. if they call the cops for this we’ll be in deep shit.”
“Listen, fool. we just got to another place. Nobody’s going to recognize us. C’mon, we got another hour or so. Let’s just get fucked up.”
Then Doc decides to throw his two-cents in by raising his right arm in the air like that never ending story kid while screaming (in the most drunken, child-like voice I’ve ever heard), “YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!”
So we walked a few blocks and arrived at this big hotel patio bar that had an abundance of activity going on. we took our seats in the middle of the action and Doc and Sal—like any good libo buddy would do—ditched me right away.
As they were off trying to find some talent, I just sat there in my own self-pity. there were a few guys up on the stage singing “I come from the land down under” on karaoke and I was just beginning to get that euphoric drunk feeling.
Then I saw her. she was sitting at a table with some of her friends. she had a spectacular exterior: dainty, well curved, perfect tan, great geometric facial features, and an ideal beam. I knew right then and there that she was my Helen of Troy, my Roxanne. But most of all, she had on one of those generic grey “Marines” shirts. I had to have her. This was going to be all too easy.
I approached her in slow motion, like in a cliché 80’s rock video. the music was blaring in the background as I closed in. Shafts of light struck her as she chatted with her friends—a perfect aura for my perfect princess. we locked eyes. Sparks began to soar into the air. I knew she was mine.
I took a seat next to her.
Drunk Chewy: “Hey, Sexy.”
Hottie: “This is my boyfriend’s seat.” (She had an Australian accent—my kryptonite.)
Drunk Chewy: “That’s hot. What’s your name? Matilda?”
Hottie: “Gina. my boyfriend is almos—”
Drunk Chewy: “I like your shirt. Where’d you get that?”
Gina the Hottie: “From a store here in town.”
Drunk Chewy: (I leaned in close to her) “I wanna have sex with your voice.”
Gina the Hottie: “WHAT?!”
Drunk Chewy: (I instantly recognized our vast language barrier) “I said ‘I think you made the right choice.’
Gina the Hottie: “What choice?”
Drunk Chewy: “Your shirt. It’s sexy… you’re sexy.”
Gina the Hottie: “That’s very sweet of you, but my boyfriend is going to be coming back and you’re in his seat.”
Drunk Chewy: “I’m sure he’ll be okay.”
Gina the Hottie’s Boyfriend: (The karaoke song he was singing with his friends had ended and I didn’t realize he was standing right behind me) “Okay with what, Mate?”
He was huge, a behemoth of a man. One of those stereotypical Aussie Cro-Magnon looking, roid-raging, Russell Crowe types.
Drunk Chewy: (Startled) “Oh… nothing, Guy. Just havin’ a chitchat with your friend.”
Gina the Hottie’s Boyfriend: “Well, she’s my girlfriend and I want to sit down.”
Drunk Chewy: (Getting up) “Sure thing, Friend—sure thing.” (I then tried to play polite and nice) “So what are all of you doin’ in Hawaii?”
Gina the Hottie’s Boyfriend: “We just came from Perth and we’re going to be travelling across the States.”
Drunk Chewy: “Oh, yeah? where to?
Gina the Hottie’s Boyfriend: “Los Angeles, Denver, Minneapolis, Chicag—”
Drunk Chewy: “YOU’RE GOING TO MINNEAPOLIS?!”
Gina the Hottie’s Boyfriend: “Yes. We’re going to a Vikings game.”
Drunk Chewy: “A VIKINGS GAME?!”
Now, before I go into this next piece of dialogue, I need to give you a little piece of background on me. Anyone that knows me knows that I get homesick real easily. But I do it in the most hypocritical of ways. for instance, I was born in Los Angeles, California and only lived there for a little bit in my formative years, but when my family moved to Minnesota, all I could do was tell people how great California was and how much Minnesota “sucked.” This went on from about five to eighteen years old. then I joined the Marine Corps and was stationed in Southern California for the better part of my enlistment. I was around a group of guys that were from all over the country, but all I could do was go into long rants about how terrible California was and how great Minnesota was. This is the point I found myself in when this story takes place, but I’ll go further. when I got out of the Marine Corps, I moved back to Minnesota, and found myself telling people in Minnesota how terrible the state was and that California was ten times better. then I moved down to Austin, Texas where I was telling everybody there that Austin sucked and how great Minnesota and California was. Once again, I moved, this time to San Antonio, Texas. It was there that I told everybody that San Antonio was terrible and Minnesota, California, and neighboring Austin where the best places to be. Now I’m back in Southern California, constantly bitching to everybody about how terrible it is and telling them how great Minnesota, Austin, and San Antonio are. I’m never content with my geographical position. I have wanderlust… and it’s a debilitating disease.
When the big roided-out Aussie told me he was going to a Vikings game, I wanted to be his best friend all of sudden. I wanted to be his tour guide through Minnesota, if you will. the company my father works for is right across the street from HHH Metrodome where the Viking play. Parking is terrible around that area—most people have to park and walk quite a distance to get to games, which can be daunting in the Minnesota winter. That’s why I’ve always been blessed to have a place to park for games (at my dad’s work). But they’re real strict around there, going as far as putting “Private Parking” signs outside of the establishment during game days. the only people who can get in need to work there, be a customer, or know someone who works there. I was going to do this big Aussie a favor. I was going to get my dad to hook him up with some prime parking—not to mention the legendary tailgate parties that go on there.
I whipped out my phone and gave the old man a call, neglecting the fact it was 11 PM in Hawaii, which would have made it 3 AM in Minnesota.
My Father: (Sounding disoriented) “Hello?”
Drunk Chewy: “DAD! DAD! I LOVE YOU, DAD!”
My Father: “Chewy? is that you? What time is it?”
Drunk Chewy: “NEVER MIND THAT! I NEED A HUGE FAVOR!”
My Father: “Are you okay? Did you get in trouble?”
My Mother: (I could hear her voice in the background) “Jerry, is he okay?”
Drunk Chewy: “I’M FINE! I’M HANGING OUT WITH MY BESTEST FRIENDS. THEY’RE FROM NEW ZEALAND OR SOME SHIT! “
My Father: “Yeah?”
Drunk Chewy: “YEAH! I NEED YOU TO GIVE THEM A PARKING PASS FOR THE UPCOMING VIKINGS GAME!”
My Father: “Uh… okay. how will I even know who I’m giving the passes to?”
Drunk Chewy: “EASY! HE’S A BIG MONSTER OF A MAN AND HE’LL HAVE A HOT BLOND WITH HIM!”
Gina the Hottie’s Boyfriend: (In the background) “Not cool, Mate!”
My Father: “Sure, Buddy. Sound like you’re having a good time. please be safe out there in Iraq.”
Drunk Chewy: “DAD, DAD, I’M IN HAWAII! I’M NOT IN IRAQ, YET! IRAQ HAS THE BAD MEN! I’M AMONGST FRIENDS HERE!”
My Father: “Okay, Pal. I’ll keep a look out for them. please stay safe.”
Drunk Chewy: “OKAY, DAD! I LOVE YOU, DAD! I LOVE YOU, MOM! I’M A GOLDEN GOD!”
I got off the phone with my folks and looked the humangoid Aussie right in the eye, “I just procured your destiny with greatness… you’re welcome.”
“I didn’t ask you to, Mate,” he responded.
“You can thank me later.”
“Well, if you can’t show any appreciation, I’ll take my benevolent feelings elsewhere.”
I looked right into his girlfriend’s eye and gave her an exaggerated wink of the eye. This did not make the big man happy. He was not happy at all.
“AYE, MATE! WE GOT A PROBLEM?!” He screamed at me as he got out of his seat.
I’m not one to seek out physical confrontation, and I never have been. But there was something about having to stare right into his giant midsection that infuriated me—not to mention I was on my way to Iraq, which kind of made me quit giving a shit about petty dangers in American bars.
I scrunched up face, cocked my head back, and went full throttle. I. Was. Going. To. Head. Butt. Him!
I thrust my temple forward. It seems like slow-motion to this day. I could see the gasps on everyone’s face. I can still remember the fear in his eyes. I hit.
I got him. I got him right in his left shoulder. Yeah, readers, I was kind of drunk at this point, so my coordination was waaaaaay off. It didn’t even faze him. He actually looked at me with confusion.
“WHAT THE FUCK?!” the big mongrel yelled in a baffled manner.
Chewy done fucked up. Chewy had to RUUUUUUUUN! And I did. Totally outmatched, I ran out of that place like Steve Prefontaine on crack-cocaine.
“OUTTA MY WAY!” I screamed as I pushed passed other patrons. “GANG WAY!”
When I got the exit of the bar, I shot a quick glance at the Aussie and his friends. they were just standing there, dumfounded. my getaway was at hand.
I ran through the lobby of the hotel where the bar was located and coincidently saw big Sal and Doc Charlie standing there, struggling to maintain balance.
“Guys, we need to get back to the ship. we gotta go now. I just picked a fight with Crocodile Dundee and he’s going to beat my ass.”
They were drunk as skunks.
“Yeah,” Sal said with a big smile on his face. we walked through the outside of the hotel and were making our way to the exit when Sal, in a moment of drunken impulsiveness, saw an emptied out swimming pool on the hotel grounds.
He looked at it for a moment. Looked back at Charlie and me, then said “Fuck it.”
The dude just started tearing off his clothes right there on the hotel property. the shirt came off; the shoes came off, and last went the shoes—which left Sal showcasing his big, beautiful, brown, Mexican body with nothing on but his undies and socks.
“WEEEEEEEEEEEEEE,” he hollered as he slid down the 12 foot deep end of the giant pool.
Charlie and I went running up to the edge of the pool where we saw Sal just laying at the bottom on his back, giggling and rolling around like a drunken schoolgirl with Tourettes.
I couldn’t help it, it was truly funny. I began to laugh, too.
“BAHAHAHA! Dude—ha,ha,ha,ha—get up! Ha,ha,ha, get up, Bro. we gotta go. Quick!”
Meanwhile, all those Long Islands Charlie had been drinking were starting to come up. I’m on the run for my life, Sal’s rolling around in a drained out swimming pool, and Doc Charlie is puking his guts out in the bushes in the corner. This was becoming disastrous.
Doc is bein’ all like, “BLAAAAAH,” Sal’s trying to run and put his clothes on, and I’m convulsing with hysterics as the three of us make our way out to the street corner to get a cab.
Now, this Hawaii we’re talking about. And what does Hawaii have a plethora of? Japanese tourists. They’re everywhere, like a never-ending locust of disposable income and camera film—that’s why I inherently like them: they’re really no different from American tourists… except less fat. But the one thing I’ve always noticed about Japanese tourists is the young males have these annoying multicolored mullet haircuts. I don’t know why they do it. Maybe it’s not in style anymore, but in the mid-two thousands, mullet mania was big in Japan.
A nice young Japanese girl came up to me as Sal, Charlie (who was still puking), and I were trying to wave down a cab. she was pretty, polite, and doing her best to speak English, so I wanted to help her. But she had a male companion with her, and his stupid haircut was getting on my nerves.
“Excuse me, mista. Do you know where the Diamond Head is?” she asked.
I glanced at her, and then looked at her boyfriend, “Yes, I do. I will grant you your boon my sweet Guinevere of the Orient. But he needs to shave that nasty shit off his head before I answer you.”
“Your boyfriend looks like he’s from the Ozarks. is there a NASCAR event going on Oahu this weekend?”
She smiled at me, probably not understanding my blatant disrespect for her companion. But I wasn’t going to be a complete asshole, so I pointed to Diamond Head on her map and did my best to explain the “We’re here, you need to go there” situation.
“Tank you, Mista. Tank you.” she said as her and her boyfriend began walking away.
“You’re welcome, Helen… you’re my Helen of Troy,” I blurted out as I stared the smiling mullet-man right in the eyes.
At that moment, big Sal had achieved his objective, “CAB! CAB! WE’VE GOT A CAB! GET IN!”
The three of us hopped in the automobile with drunken enthusiasm. Doc took the front passenger seat and Sal and I slumped into the backseat.
A quick trip back to the ship, shouldn’t be problem, right? Wrong. Sal was still rolling around in his own world of hilarity. I was sitting to the right of him in a flaccid, pissed off state. Doc Charlie was directly in front of me, looking like he was ready for another round of puking. the cabbie, a man I’m sure had been used to shuffling drunk Marines around all night, was looking at Doc with that “Oh, please don’t puke in here” look on his face.
The cabbie, a middle-aged Asian man, looks at Doc and tries to break the tension.
Cabbie: “You Laotian?”
Let me explain to you what Doc’s face looked like when he turned around to answer the cabbie. you know those “Faces of Meth” ads you see at bus stops? the ones that chronicle the before and after pictures of fucked up people as they make their descent into hell over a certain number of years? if you would have taken a snapshot of Doc before we left the ship, and one at this very moment, he could have been a perfect candidate for one of these posters. He just looked flat-out haggard—a look he got in the matter of hours.
He responded to the Cabbie, “No, Vietnamese.”
All of sudden, out of nowhere, they just start going into a conversation in Laotian or Vietnamese, I don’t know. I don’t know what they said, but this is what I saw from the backseat (as Sal was screaming at people on the other side of the car):
Cabbie: “Bạn đến từ đâu?”
Doc Charlie: “Tôi đến từ Phoenix, Arizona.”
Cabbie: “Ồ, tôi có gia đình ở Phoenix.”
Doc Charlie: “Thật không? Điều đó rất thú vị.”
Cabbie: “Bạn trông giống như bạn đang đi để ném trong xe taxi của tôi. Xin vui lòng không.”
Doc then leaned his head out the window and hurled a colossal amount of puke outside of the window, which because of the speed we were travelling, caused half of it to smack into my window (Thankfully, I had that sucker rolled up).
He continued with his conversation.
Doc Charlie: “Quá muộn. Tôi nghĩ rằng tôi nhận được nhiều nhất của nó trên mặt đất.”
Cabbie: “Một trong những bạn bè mắt tròn của bạn sẽ phải trả tiền cho việc này. Bạn có hiểu không?”
Doc then leaned out of the window for a second time: “BLAAAAAAH!” Heave everywhere.
Doc Charlie: “Vâng, tôi hiểu. Màu nâu dành tất cả của mình trên đảo dài Ice Tea, vì vậymột trong những nhạt sẽ trả. Nâu ném tiền của mình ở Samoa. Xin vui lòng chỉ nhận được chúng tôi trở lại một cách an toàn.”
Cabbie: “Được rồi, nhưng bạn phải trả.”
Doc Charlie: (Leans out of the window, again) “BLAAAAAH!”
This went on for the whole twenty minute ride back to the ship. By the time we all exited, Doc was heaved out, Sal was wiped out, and I was catatonic. we all looked like shit—and felt even worse.
Cabbie: (Looks me straight in the eye) “Okay, you pay now.”
Drunk Chewy: “Why do I gotta pay?”
Cabbie: “Your friend says the white one will pay. Brown one threw all of his money at the fat man.”
I slipped him the money for the ride, plus a little extra for the fact that the whole side of his cab looked like someone had thrown spaghetti on it.
Sal and I carried Doc Charlie up the gangplank, through the entire ship, and dropped him in his rack in the berthing. the whole experience had wiped me out. I didn’t expect shit to go as crazy as it did when I was with big Sal and Doc Charlie.
Several months later, our ship was carrying us back from the Middle-East and we once again hit up Hawaii—this time as our last stop before our return home.
Doc Charlie comes from the corner of the berthing, “Hey, Chewy, you wanna go out with Sal and I on libo?”
I gave him a ten second stare, “…. Fuck no. I’d be safer with Ski.”
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