Born in the USA
By Dave Schwartz
I opened my eyes and looked at the clock-- 6:15 in the morning! What sadist gets up this early on a Sunday morning, stands in his front yard and sings at the top of his voice "Born in the USA"? It was almost unbelievable! I climbed out of bed and stared out my window to see a longhaired man in a Jesus robe, dark glasses and acoustic guitar. At this point I was certain that across the street from me lived a lunatic! This was obviously the result of an all night bender. But wait a minute, long hair? That certainly didn't fit into any profile that I expected. This was a housing track in Balibago, just outside of Clark Air Base in the Philippines. There weren't any civilians walking around here, only civilian-dependent wives. Mercifully he only had the one song in him that morning, so it wasn't long before I was climbing back into bed. As I laid there and watched the geckos crawling their way across the ceiling, I realized that this was yet another reminder that we "weren't in Kansas anymore." A twist of fate or something more, I didn't know. But one thing was sure, I could chalk up the next three years as another part of life's little adventure.
Later that afternoon we met the appropriately named, Tim Lord. Being new arrivals from "the world," we had only lived in this housing track for a couple of days. I guess it was a bit of a surprise to see a young Amer-Asian woman standing at our front gate yelling, "Hello." Her name was Vicki and she was Tim's girlfriend. Due to her easy demeanor, it wasn't long before we were chatting like old friends. And naturally we had to ask-- I mean you don't drive past a wreck on the highway without wondering what had happened.
"So does Tim sing like that every weekend?"
Slightly embarrassed Vicki confided, "No, he just returned from an all-nighter and decided to serenade the neighborhood! That shouldn't happen... too often!"
We sat at our bar as Vicki told us about the neighborhood. They had lived there for several months and seemed to know everyone. Nan lived next door and the Webs down the street. Vicki had an infectious personality and what I would learn later, a particularly endearing character trait that would consume most any young 20-something male. I don't think she owned a bra! Say what you want, on my hierarchy of important life traits she instantly became one of my favorite people!
It wasn't long before we were being led across the street and introduced to Tim. Like Vicki, he was an adventurer through life. Extremely animated, he had a hundred stories, each funnier than the last and, although better than 10 years my senior, we had much in common. Both Tim and Vicki were civilians. I used to be a civilian! Tim worked as a technical representative for Raytheon and was assigned to the search radar on Clark Airforce Base. I had just graduated radar tech school and had relocated for my first assignment. Come Monday morning I was scheduled to report to some place called Camp O'Donnell. Over beers I was enlightened to what I had gotten myself into.
"You're going where?" Tim asked.
I took the time to share the little bit of knowledge that I had. The remainder of his commentary was confined to uncomfortable laughter and the phrase "Oh, Jeeze." You see, having lived in the Philippines for a while, Tim was very aware of Camp O'Donnell. It was located at the end of the Bataan Death March. We sat under blue skies sipping a cold beer as Tim told us the rest of the story.
During World War II, the Japanese invaded the Philippines. After nearly three months of combat operations, the Filipino-American Forces were forced into a tactical retreat onto the Bataan peninsula. On Bataan and the tiny island of Corregidor, allied forces were nearing their end of resistance against the Japanese. President Roosevelt ordered General MacArthur to leave the Philippines for Australia. Before leaving and while standing on a sandy beachhead, MacArthur vowed, "I shall return." Those that remained on the island of Luzon became known as "The Battling Bastards of Bataan" and the American and Filipino combatants fought on for several more weeks until finally, out of ammunition and food, they surrendered to the Japanese. Bataan survivors were robbed of personal effects, denied food and water, or received very little; soldiers that could not keep up with the pace were bayoneted, shot or beheaded. The number of soldiers beaten and/or executed by the Japanese was in the thousands before the march was completed.
The captured solders were marched 118 kilometers from Bataan to Camp O'Donnell. Today a solitary stone monument rising out of the rice paddies, pointing to the sky, commemorates the bravery of the Filipino and American solders. MacArthur did return, liberating the nation from Japan and guaranteeing his hero status on this tiny island republic.
That was the first of many blurry-eyed afternoons that we spent with Tim and Vicki. A half dozen beers after we arrived, we had made our first friends in the Philippines and discovered what it was like to step into a piece of history. Over the next several weeks I learned firsthand about the challenges of working in the jungle. Departing as early as 3 a.m. and often coming home well after dark, our "short" day was 11 hours. To say the least, I found the schedule challenging but quickly adapted.
This work ethic developed strong friendships with my fellow airmen and lent credence to the long established battle cry, "Work hard, play hard!" But with hours like that, I couldn't figure out where people found the time to sample the famous nightlife. But like anything, life will always find a way. And play hard we did!
Bargaining for Binges
It certainly wasn't the first day, maybe the second, when Vicki came over to the house to tell us about her new patio set. It was late in the afternoon and we really had so much going on that we couldn't just rush over there to take a look. We promised to stop in the next day and she seemed perfectly fine with that. As she was leaving, she asked a question that didn't seem overly unusual to us but yet, it was like there was something more she wasn't saying.
"Have you guys seen Tim?" she asked. "Maybe on base or downtown?"
We told her we hadn't and she cheerfully shrugged her shoulders and wandered off.
Late the next morning, Vicki was once again at our gate. She had been to the store picking up several bottles of wine, feta cheese and Grey Poupon.
"You guys got to come over and see this," she began. "Tim finally came home this morning, he's been gone for three days. I've got some wine and cheese and we can sit on my new patio set and fuck with him!"
"Three days?" we asked.
Laughing she continued, "Yeah, you got to see him. His knees and elbows are all skinned up, he's got dark glasses on and he's lying in the middle of the living room floor! He can hardly move!"
Vicki seemed to be taking Tim's mystery absence much better than most women. We grabbed our stuff and headed across the street with her. As we walked up, she pointed out her new patio set. This was no small table and chairs set, six chairs and a big umbrella, it had all the bells and whistles and she was making a special effort to show them off. As we stood outside chatting, we heard our first signs of life from Tim. It was sort of a nonsensical attempt at a sentence followed by a moan. Clearly Tim was still a bit intoxicated.
As we entered the house, we found Tim right where Vicki had indicated, in the middle of the living room floor. He looked like hell. His knees were bandaged and a bloody mess. He was wearing shorts and a T-shirt and was lying on his back.
"What the hell happened?" we asked.
"I don't know," Vicki replied. "He hasn't sobered up enough to tell me yet. All I know is that he was out on one of his binges again. He does this occasionally."
"You mean he was downtown chasing the girls?" Sally asked.
"Yeah, he does this every now and then. But I don't care; I have a new patio set! He disappears for a few days and when he comes home, I have bought something new. The longer he's gone, the more money I spend! That's how I got this TV and this living room set!" Vicki explained.
With a big smile Vicki said, "Hey, watch this. What did you do with your socks Tim? Where did you leave your socks?"
To most men, her questions were the verbal equivalent of a good kick in the ribs. Tim didn't have much of a reply. All he could do was lay there and moan. Laughing we grabbed the wine and made our way out to the new patio set. Over the next hour or so Vicki outlined how their relationship worked. She acknowledged that she was just his girlfriend and felt that she had little ability to rein in Tim's extra-curricular activities. Instead, she chose to use his indiscretions as leverage to furnish their house. She called their arrangement "Bargaining for Binges." He didn't ask where the new furniture came from and she didn't ask where he went.
We enjoyed the wine and the feta cheese was amazing. Not at all like the lousy goat cheese we normally found off base. Any form of dairy product was difficult to find in the Philippines and the quality stuff was even more rare. Suddenly we heard a call from inside the house. Tim seemed to be sobering up a bit.
"Vicki!" he yelled.
She went inside to see how he was doing. From what we could hear he seemed confused when Vicki told him that we were over at the house. She tried to explain that we were over checking out her new patio set, but he didn't have the faculties to put two and two together. Soon she called me inside to help get Tim up off of the floor. His knees weren't bending so well with the bandages on and he was certainly still a little lightheaded. He sat on the couch and, for the first time, took off his dark glasses. It was obvious that he had been in a fight.
We tried to make small talk but that proved to be difficult, "So how are you feeling?"
"Ohhh, my fucking head hurts," he moaned.
As Tim sat on the couch, he slowly recovered. He began getting his senses about himself and soon the story of this epic three-day bender began to unfold.
"I went out Thursday night after work," he began. "I stopped for a few beers with friends. Hey, did you know they have a bunch of new girls working over at LBFM's (LBFM is a bar and an acronym for Little Brown Fucking Machine)? Anyway, we were bar hopping and we just kept pouring beers and watching the girls and the videos and suddenly it was Friday about 9 a.m. The guy I was with decided to go home. I was drunk and already late for work, so I just phoned in sick and just kept rolling."
It was amazing to hear the story unfold. He slowly uncovered a trail that led through at least a dozen bars. And as he told the story, he became more and more animated and more like the semi-sober Tim that we all knew and loved.
"So Friday night I'm at El Toro and you know they got that unisex bathroom there. So I've got to piss and I get over there just in time for some Australian dude to get in front of me. I told him to hurry up because I really had to go. He told me to fuck off! He gets inside and he's in there, like, forever. So I bang on the door and tell him to hurry up. Again he tells me to fuck off! So I wait a little longer and finally I yell, 'What the hell you doing in there, fucking your mother?' Suddenly the door comes busting open and out flew this Australian. We rolled around the floor kicking and punching until all of a sudden the mama-san came running up with one of the Pin-pin guards yelling, 'Shoot them, that's what I pay you for!' Needless to say we got the hell out of there quick!"
"Is that where you left your socks Tim?" Vicki asked.
He stared back at her for a moment and then just turned to us and continued on. Tim's story meandered on for at least another hour as he weaved a trail that led from one bar to the next to the next. In and out of fights, running into old friends, but he never explained what had happened to his knees, so we finally had to ask.
With a sheepish look on his face, Tim began to tell the final story. "It was about three this morning when I decided that I had been out way too long and it was time to come home. So I waived down a Jeepnee and off we went."
A Jeepnee is a form of transportation in the Philippines that is much like a taxi. In most cases the vehicles are surplus World War II jeeps that have been stretched and painted a variety of bright colors. Sometimes as many as 15-20 people ride in the back of this largely open-air vehicle that is entered and exited from a small door way that faces to the rear.
Tim continued, "So we're coming home and well, I've got to piss again. I don't want the guy to stop, so I just get up and go to the back door. So there I stand in the back door with my pants around my ankles, holding onto the Jeepnee with my left hand and my junk with my right, when all of a sudden, we hit that speed bump over by the bridge. Wham!"
Tim couldn't help but laugh at his luck, "The guy was doing like 30 miles per hour and I went flying right out the back!"
From his description, he hit the ground with a terrible thud, face first onto the concrete, skidding on his elbows and knees and still urinating. Apparently the driver saw Tim go and was nice enough to come back and get him. He could've been easily killed laying in the middle of a dark road at three in the morning. Although hung over Tim seemed to have regained his senses. Vicki saw this as another opportunity to ask the question that has been puzzling us all.
"Your socks, Tim," she asked. "Where did you leave your socks?"
There was no avoiding the question this time. We all knew it. It was time for Tim to spill the beans. He squirmed and began to mutter something that didn't make much sense. We were all left feeling a bit uneasy not knowing if Vicki was about to let loose on him. Finally as he seemed to muster the courage to offer an explanation, Vicki once again butted in.
"Tim" she said in a quieter voice. "You didn't wear any socks!"
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