“1971 Marine Combat Correspondent At War In San Diego” Tanka 486


spent a week two nights

in ‘dago drinking three-much

bothering no one

 

grabbed thh general’s cash

and john and i bought more booze*

 

  • (Just  released from Jacksonville (Florida) Naval Hospital, I got assigned to 8th Marine Corps Recruiting and Reserve District headquarters in Philadelphia, Penna. – I detest using fake postal identifiers of 2-letters when a real abbreviation is hanging about unworked anymore – and ran into John Gentry, a fellow alum of 1970 Vietnam and the 1st Marine Division.  I had dragged John, whose idea of a mixed drink was half a 6-ounce Coca Cola in the morning, a quart of Jack Daniels’ Black during the ensuing day and a windup of the final three ounces of soda before passing out – into the DaNang Freedom Hill Red Cross shack to take pictures of an orphans Christmas (or was it Thanksgiving?) Party, just a few days before I got my medevac ticket home.  When I got to Philly, Gentry, who was stationed there too, informed me that his picture of a little orphan boy reaching past the head of of huge Black Marine playing a trumpet so he could finger the valves, won the annual USMC Combat Correspondent’s photo award and would I like to tag along to San Diego for the annual convention to see him get his award.  We’d go on a Marine C-130 (or was it 136?) cargo flight out of New York, take on fuel in Nebraska and thence on to ‘Dago.  John and I took a train from Philly to Long Island – and were well-tanked up prior and en route.  We we boarded I found myself sitting next to the 1-star general who ran our outfit, Jay somethingorother I forgot which, and he informed me I had “entertained” Headquarters, Marine Corps and his Division of Information outfit immensely the previous year, but he wondered what it was I said via direct telephonic conversation with The Commandant (twice!) that had the whole place in uproars on both occasions and so I told him, beginning: “Well, sir, General…” He interrupted: J, my first name is Jay, too, though not as much fun as you had with yours when the Army in Saigon called me and asked why I had a writer who insisted on spelling his name “J” Richards in his story and photo credits and didn’t I know a “J” was code for marijuana?  So, on this plane and on this trip, my name – just like anyone else is first-name basis. Got it, Sergeant? J?” Gotcha, Jay.”  Then he asked: “Whew, you two smell like a brewery fell into a distillery. Got any more? Share?”  Sure thing, Jay.  John, Get The Gen…Jay, a taste outta your AWOL bag.” And so, the three bottles carefully wrapped in towels got passed around.  And we were dry by the time we hit that big missile base in either Nebraska or South or North Dakota: by then I was ungeographical.  Jay reached into his regulation black nylon sock and came up with a fistful of green foldin’ money and peeled of a couple of hundreds.  “You two go find more booze,” he slurred at his two new best buds.  We left via the fold-down rear ramp – so it was of C-130. And we hitched a ride to the nearest on-base store for hootch.  We gave our driver a bottle for his sins and showed up just as the plane began to warm up.  I crawled on all fours off that damn plane and rarely left that sure-four-footed stance the rest of the weekend.  And I can not find John Gentry to tell me what all happened that was fun – aside from Jim McMahon face-planting himself in the mashed potatoes at the banquet or my desire to go fight-the-bulls at that fiesta they threw for us just South of Tijuana, or that curious incident at the hotel’s – ours or someone else’s? – involving The Miami Dolphins and one tanked Marine Combat Correspondent  wrapped entirely except for a facehole in a bedsheet going around on all fours, biting badasses on their ankles and going “boo” to all the ladies, that is.)

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