“New Smyrna Beach BackFlash*”

(January 14, 2019)

as a teen i’d see

hundreds of crabs leave night surf

and we would eat some

*(New Smyrna Beach looks nothing like Izmir, Turkey. In 1968 I saw both within months of each other: In the former a number three washtub-ful of blue crabs nestled amongst the sea grass, the little balls of air-sacks suspended over the bucket of Ponce Inlet seawater swimming crabs just then placed on white-hot coals. A sheet-metal cover and the steaming begins. This was perhaps the final days of purloined mangrove stumps brought to a rich red-orange heat in that selfsame big tub and then brought via the back-deck of a Jeep Commando to the few remaining high dunes left. The nighttime at New Smyrna was a deserted time mostly, though with a full moon further down, say, towards Bethune Beach (which had a less-than-polite N-word moniker because that is the only place Blacks felt comfortable – and with good reason in those tail-end Jim Crow Days – where we got the crabs in a pickup. The Beer came by cars. A going away party for some and a welcome back party for me. I had just returned from a Mediterranean Sea cruise with the 7th Fleet’s Amphibious Squadron toting about the water its complement of a reinforced Battalion Landing Team (Third Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment – 3/8 in Marine-speak) and one of the places we took in as liberty ports was Izmir – Smyrna to The Greeks who colonized the place in near-mythological times – because we were sent there instead of our planned place of repose. The Island of Rhodes, a notorious party place. Why? Izmir was having its annual student riots, much like go on in South Korea. So Turkey asked for a battalion of U. S. Marines and their sailor-pals to kind of put the kay-bosh on the boys – rarely girls went past elementary school days in those days – and still, too especially in rural areas – and what I saw of the large city on the underside of Turkey, hanging out into the Med just above Lebanon and Israel convinced me we were gypped. Dirtier than even Toulon. More dangerous than even Leghorn – Livorno if you must – and more depressing than Arancii Bay, though there my few friends and I camped out above the battalion and gained control of the cheese, wine, beer, bread and sausage concession. But in Izmir, based just below the giant U. S. Air Force operation in which the Turks ran a protection and taxation racket that would rival any New York mafiosi operation, I learned America was the only place I could think of to take a warm, safe, comfortable dump. Yes, Turkey has some fantastic and well-preserved (?) Western Culture-ruins. But even more, Turkey has – and maybe still does – some truly ugly ruins walking about calling themselves government. And I dared not eat the crabs. Who knows what was in the water?)

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