Tuesday, November 05, 2002

A Marine Corps Memory

Right now I am reading 'From here to Eternity' by James Jones. It is a novel that is about the army on Hawaii in the year before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I have not read it before nor have I seen the movie so I don't know how much of the book takes place after the attack. I'll let you know if you are interested.

Anyway, the strength of the book so far has been about the minutiae of military life. Small boring activities like cleaning weapons, mopping floors, waxing those same floors, sweeping sidewalks, picking up litter, empyting garbage, washing dishes and saluting officers.

It's not all about the mundane activities that take place during a workday, it also covers the personal time you do get afterhours. It seems that soldiers in 1940 spent a lot of time gambling which seems to have been a lost art when I was in the service. We probably were paid better so we didn't have the need to gamble for drinking money.

There is a scene where a few fellas are playing a game of poker in the latrine while using a blanket for their table. There is a lot of good-natured ribbing and a sharing of resources. It reminded me of the times my friend Mike and I spent drinking Budweiser at the Sunabe
which is located on the western coast of Okinawa. You can see the location on this map. The seawall is just to the left of the letter 'E' on the map which is the Air Force based called Kadena.

This was in 1988 and I had a 500 dollar Toyota Corolla. We would drive out to the seawall on Sunday evenings and drink Bud longnecks. The seawall was a great place to hang out on a Sunday evening. Okinawas and military personal would cruise around the narrow road and hang out and meet people. On Sundays it was not as chaotic as it could be on a Friday and or Saturday night so that was my favorite time to go.

We bought the bottled Budweiser longnecks because when we finished a beer we would throw the bottle onto the cement formations that looked like jacks that were used to break the waves coming in. This became a major form of amusement. We would rate each bottles impact on the jacks. The jacks were stacked on top of each other so there were gaps the bottles could bounce down into. The longer it bounced and the more dramatic the shattering would cause the rating of the throw to improve. We did this enough so that are rating system became quite sophisticated.

A hard throw that didn't bounce but allowed the shattering of the bottle to supply a good report could push a rating of '7.' One bounce with a good smash really couldn't get beyond a '7.' It was excting but lacked pizzazz. I don't remember there ever being a '10.'
Mike would often declare a long bouncing bottle that pinged deep into the jacks a '10' but I could never allow it. I never rated a bottle's destruction over '9.5' and we both were allowed to judge each other's throws.

I hearkened back to my high school baseball experience when rating a throw. I remembered my baseball coach was driving a van back home after a baseball trip to the Detroit area. He was a big guy and we had stopped at a White Castle before we embarked. About an hour into the trip he started ripping the worst farts I have ever been forced to breathe yet. As he gassed us and we gagged he laughed devilishly and rated each fart. The highest he ever went was '9.5.' After one particularly nasty release I asked him what a ten would be and he answered, 'Oh, you can see a 10.' That experience is what held me back when rating our bottle smashes. I guess I figured a '10' would have to either cause the bottle to explode like a stick of dynamite or one of the glass shards would have to injure one of us. That never happened.

I have done some internet searches on the Sunabe Seawall and I see now that it is a gathering place for scuba divers. There may be a remote chance that one of our Budweiser bottle shards may have cut a foot of one of those divers. There may be a '10' out there that we will never know about.

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