Saturday, January 18, 2003

Another Marine Corps Memory

I have to say that even though I enjoyed about six months of my four year hitch in the marines it will always be good source for blog entries when I have nothing else to say.

I had a friend in Okinawa named Mike. He was from the Milwaukee area of Wisconsin. I haven't spoken to him since I left the Marines back in the summer of 1990. Mike was famous for disappearing one weekend on a bender. He is the only person I have ever known personally that actually disappeared for a weekend in an alcoholic haze. This happened on Okinawa, where many odd things tend to happen while people are in an alcoholic haze. Let me put it this way, when I was there in 1987-9 if you were 18 you could buy cases of Budweiser for $8 and you also had access to hard liquor at the base liquor store. While there I developed a fondness for Canadian Club.

The Friday night that Mike disappeared he was drinking some kind of spiced rum and I was either at a baseball or softball game (I played for the company's softball team and the base's baseball team at different times). When I got back to the barracks I was informed by the a corporal who was the sergeant of the day that "your buddy Mike freaked out and took off, man." It turns out that he had ended up flat on his back in the lawn in front of the barracks literally howling at the moon. The sergeant of the day had asked what was up and Mike's supposed response was, "Fuck the Marine Corps, that's what's up." Mike could not confirm this remark because of his alcohol blurred memory. He showed up sometime during the day on Monday and got in a little trouble, got confined to the barracks for a week or so and had some pay taken away. He had spent a couple of nights in a cheap motel in a town north of base that had a lot of clubs Americans frequented.

One of the best nights Mike and I had on the town in Okinawa was the Night of the Motorcycle Ninjas. North of the base I was stationed at is a town called Okinawa City. In the middle of Okinawa City was the Air Force base called Kadena. Kadena is one the largest bases on Okinawa and is definately the largest base that is in a heavily populated area. During my stay on Okinawa there was a protest whereupon thousands of people joined hands and surrounded the base. Two friends of mine who happened to be driving by when this protest was occurring jumped out and joined the protest because "we want us to go home, too." Each entrance to the base is numbered and the rear gate is called "Gate Two." Outside gate two is a street with many retail businesses and bars geared toward the American serviceman. The G.I.'s referred to the street, in typical Americanese, as Gate Two Street. Obviously named by the descendants of those that named Little Rock, New York, Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains.

I had a car. Mike did not have a car so on one particulary night we decided to go out to the clubs. Before I met Mike I spent a lot of time at dance clubs hanging out with people who were nice but were never really friends. Mike was different, we were both from the midwest and grew up listening to the same music. Mike and I go clubbing, after a short period of time in the club trying to fit in and meet chicks he and I realize that we really aren't having that good of a time and we are not in our natural habitat. So we bail. It's around midnight and while we were in the club it had rained. Okinawa at night after a rain is shimmering place. Okinawa holds onto it's rain. There is a light coating of coral dust on everything so when the rain falls the dust holds the moisture and the whole city is like a reflection and the streets, with their light layer of muck, are almost as treacherous as a newly iced sidewalk.

So we are out walking the streets on this night not looking for trouble but just enjoying being two young kids exploring a very foreign place. We eventually wander towards Gate Two Street and the bar we like to go to late at night called the "A Sign." We never figured out what that meant but it had a cool wooden interior and they played rock album sides. Perfect for us. The intersection at Gate Two Street was fairly busy with pedestrians and vehicles so the pedestrian crosswalks across all for intersections were elevated. We noticed a commotion coming the intersection that sounded like motor cycles. We didn't think much of because there are motorcyles everywhere in Okinawa. It was dangerous to hang your arm out your car window at a stoplight there because it could get hit by a motorcycle moving to the front, threading the needle between lanes (this was legal). Mike and I climb the steps of the intersection and we look down and see about four or five teenagers on dirt bikes wearing black ninja outfits going in circles in the intersection being chased by Japanese Police bearing batons. We stopped to watch.

More later.

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