|There was a point in time... All you
lads who rode submersible iron will recognize the point... A point where
you could tell exactly how long you had been out by the diameter of the
salt stain in the armpits of your last clean dungaree shirt. The point
where all of your fellow inmates smelled like the inside of Olga Korbut's
At this point in the interest of human
preservation and fear that his ship was taking on the internal atmosphere
of the monkey house at the Chicago zoo... The Old Man would lift water
restriction and allow 'white light' in the berthing compartments.
Men, who had lived and interacted in
the dim glow of night vision-preserving red light, got a good look at each
other for the first time in weeks. It wasn't a pretty sight...
"Jeezus, have I been living with these
The after battery looked like a garbage
dump. Shredded ration boxes, stray socks... Magazines, loaded butt kits...
Sour towels and a collection of dirty laundry that had matured to the point
it was turning into limburger cheese.
It was a point far past the day we had
wrapped ourselves around the last of the potatoes stored in the showers.
The only visual evidence of their previous existence were the wadded up
gunny sacks carpeting the deck of the after battery head and whatever GDU-delivered
peels the fish off Nova Scotia were dining on... The 'Idaho's Best' rug
in the sonar shack was the residual product of some previous deployment.
For those of you who never rode Uncle
Sam's underseas technological treats, a smoke boat shower was an aluminum
box the size of a coffin designed for Mickey Rooney. It had a shower head
that delivered semi-hot water at the rate of five peeing humming birds
and a shelf for soap that could leave a very distinctive purple mark on
your upper biceps if the boat took a roll during occupancy... And a deck
drain... A hole through which amazing things could appear if anyone put
a pressure in number two sanitary tank without shutting the required gate
valve and quick throw.
Even though you had to Crisco your ass
to turn around in the damn thing, it was the closest thing to heaven a
diesel boat sailor came in contact with at sea.
Everyone shucked his dungarees down
to his skivvies... Grabbed a towel and his 'douche bag' (subsailor for
shaving kit) and got in line. While guys rooted through sidelockers for
their shower gear, towel fights broke out... Not Cub Scout towel flipping,
serious heavy-duty towel popping. The kind that can take little chunks
of hiney if you couldn't move and fend off the shot. Grown men laughing
and popping each other with towels... Underseas recreation at its finest.
After a two-minute soapdown, scrub and
a rinse, men would lather up and scrape off weeks of beard accumulation.
Lifers who never shelled out for razor blades would say,
"Hey kid... How about seconds on that
Cheap bastards... Same guys that ran
out of sea stores smokes after two weeks... Same guys who would wander
around Bells filling their glass from any available pitcher. They are probably
millionaires now and live by tax loopholes.
Bottles of Vitalis, Lucky Tiger, Mennens,
Old Spice, Aqua Velva, and God knows what else, appeared from side lockers.
In thirty minutes, the entire boat smelled like the parlor of the best
whorehouse in New Orleans.
Adrian Stukey would break into a Ray
Charles song and do his aboriginal dance... He employed footwork only known
to Stukey and three Congolese witch doctors. The man had moves Fred Astaire
and Gene Kelly never thought of... Sort of reminiscent of an electrocuted
orangutan, mixed with the mating dance of the Australian Dingo eaters.
By some miracle, clean white skivvy
shirts appeared. Some with the names of guys, who rode the boat five or
six years previously, stenciled across the back.
"Who in the hell is Garabaldi, D. L.?"
"How'n the hell do I know?"
"Musta been some boat sailor."
"Yeh, I guess... What's it to you...
You writing a gahdam book?"
"Maybe someday... Who knows?"
Nah... Who'd give a damn about reading
stuff about this jacked up bunch of idiots? Who'd believe it?
Once upon a time, I lived among people
who volunteered to live like primates in an iron septic tank with lousy
air, shared sleeping arrangements, had at least four leaks (air, oil, water,
and security), made weird sounds, and agitated like a warped washing machine,
for less money than you could fit into a gahdam gumball machine... Who'd
read crap like that?
When the Goddess of Personal Hygiene
looked down and blessed the residents of the roaming hotel SS-481... It
It was also good to live among men who
were right where they wanted to be... Nobody chloroformed them and hauled
them off to New London. Nobody ever called their number at the Selective
Service Board. They volunteered... Every gahdam one. Most of the world
didn't even know they were there... Boats... Little primitive communities
of the finest men I've ever known that lived in metal containers and took
them to sea. There has to be a story in there somewhere.
The next time you see a Texaco tank
truck rolling down the highway, just for a moment visualize it a couple
of hundred feet underwater... Then picture thirty or forty happy-go-lucky
half-naked men singing, doing silly dancing and towel fighting inside...
And willing to do whatever it took to keep nasty folks with weird political
agendas from crawling through your bedroom window.
Those lads were my shipmates.