Anchors aweigh

My father served in the U.S. Navy in the Second World War. For most of the war he was in the Pacific, serving as the radio officer and then the exec of a tanker. In general he had a “good” war; no fighting and a meal and a place to sleep.

One day the ship was to anchor in a bay on a Philippine island. My dad was on the bridge. They brought the ship to the appropriate place and the crew on deck dropped anchor, under the instruction of the deck officer, who was a new Lieutenant JG.

Ship anchors are big, and so are their chains. The anchor had to go down quite a long way in this case because the bay was deep. Everyone stood well clear as first the anchor and then a very thick chain (about two feet thick) roared through the port on the deck while the anchor hurtled toward the bottom.

Then it stuck. A tremendous amount of swearing ensued. With the anchor part way down, the people on the bridge had to keep the ship roughly in place with the engines at almost zero power, while the people on the deck tried to figure out how to unhook the anchor chain. One of the links had flopped crosswise and was being held in place by the anchor’s huge weight. What to do?

The sailors stood around arguing about the best way to handle this; it didn’t happen often. Finally our young lieutenant got tired of all this meat-headed yelling and decided to show his mettle by fixing the thing simply and quickly. He walked up and kicked the stuck chain-link loose.

With a tremendous bang and roar the link popped loose and rushed into the depths, and once again the chain was speeding through the port and they were on their way to anchoring. But where was the Lieutenant? They looked overboard, and around, and up and down. He’d just disappeared!

But my dad, from above, had seen what happened too fast for the sailors to see. The lieutenant had caught his foot in the chain link and been forced at incredible speed and pressure through a small hole on his way to the bottom of the sea.

That’s the story my dad told about safety with tools when I was growing up.

Orange County Vignettes

One:

I was at the coffee house talking to a young (22 year old) guy I know, and one of his friends came up to greet him. The guy had a large bandage on one hand obviously covering a bad cut. On questioning, he revealed that he’d been in the back of a limousine on the freeway, and that after sudden braking he’d slashed his hand open on a broken champagne glass.

Two:

At the Kragen Auto Parts, a beautiful and willowy young woman with luminous blue eyes and long blonde hair is buying some small automotive part or other. In line ahead of her is a strong-and-simple young bro guy with backwards ball cap, tattoos, and Black Flys sunglasses. He asks her what she’s fixing, and after some back and forth he realizes that she has a completely incorrect item and takes her back to the aisle and they point at things and talk for a bit. They return with different items. He obviously wants a phone number. They go outside together and there’s an awkward five minute conversation in which she puts him off in the most pleasant possible way and he persists in the most gentlemanly possible way, and then she leaves in a gigantic black SUV. He returns to working on his ten year old BMW sedan, which is also black.

Another slice of Bob Trout

I get this ambulance ride to Hoag, because my back just fucking exploded. Yeah, you remember. About six years ago. Anyway, flash back to the old days. I was running with this… …thief, drunk, maniac. He and I had a great fuckin’ time together. And I was constantly drunk, big mule of a guy, poster boy for post-traumatic stress disorder. This guy Pat, he was a Harbor High football star from the sixties. complete degenerate. One time we installed a hot tub in the place for a doctor at Hoag, fourth floor place down on the Bay, bring the girls up in groups and fuck ’em. I remembered the guy’s name, he was an E.R. doc.

So then, right, my back goes. Fine since then, I take my drugs and I know the woman can’t be on top unless I got a good mattress. But this time they had a bodybuilder pick me up like I was a feather and toss me in the ambulance and I got to the Hoag E.R. I’m lying there and the orderly is saying well Mr. Trout we’re going to transfer you to the VA, and I say yeah, that’s right. And then I said to him “Does Dr. S. still work here?” “Why yes, he’s in charge of the E.R.” I said “Well tell him that Pat C. is dead, and the bastard owed me $200 and owed him $900.” Orderly looked at me kinda funny and left. He comes back a few later and wipes my ass with alcohol, sticks a needle in there and gives me a huge shot of morphine. Says “Dr. S. says that’s for you, and you can spend the night here.” He always knew I was the one doing the work and Pat was an asshole.

This is how we did it. You know, there was nothing but killing. No strategy, just kill. I was a fucking war criminal. And we killed a lot, a tremendous number of people. Be standing in a big clearing just piled with bodies and say well, let’s call this a hundred for the records.

We’d fly in on Pierre’s helicopter and he’d drop us about over by Hoag, in the weeds. And our target was maybe over there, by the YMCA. We took a week to get there and get ready, and we told Pierre we’d be right back at the same spot at this time and date. Thank God we had good pilots, they always fucking found us. I mean, if they didn’t, that was that. So we’d go into the Viet Cong training camp or whatever at night, and load the place up to the fucking treetops with mines. Claymores everywhere, interlocking blast fields. We’d back off and fire one shot and they’d all come running out of their tents. Boom! Claymores means chunks of metal flying around in every space there’s air. These guys are fucking lasagne. Almost all of them dead or dying. But we knew we didn’t get the instructors. And those guys would tend to some wounded and then come looking for us. And they knew how to kill and how to run in the jungle, and so did we.

But Pierre would be there, every time, waiting for us just when we said. God bless him he never missed the spot and you know you couldn’t fucking see it from up there, he just had to know. No electronic shit. Mark Tork, from Manhattan Kansas. I remembered the name, that’s something.

You don’t know these weapons until you see them. Like if you shot a water can over there on top of the bricks, one shot from an M-16. You’d expect maybe the can would go to pieces, water everywhere, but no. It flies straight up 20 yards in the air. What the fuck?

War is just the worst fuckin’ thing.