. . . . at least never on the internet or in my thoughts every day!
I have been wanting to post some writings here by a fellow submariner and friend of my father, a friend that he never met. Thanks to the internet, Dad’s last couple of years on this earth were richer due to the friendships he made in the cyber submarine community at large. My dad did pass from this life suddenly in 2000, after having lunch with old friends. As a decorated member of Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation” I believe he earned that quick and sweet passage.
One of those sailors was Bob “DEX” Armstrong, a post war boat sailor who came to idolize and honor Dad’s wartime service. DEX is a gifted writer, and as he got to know Tom, AKA The Old Gringo, DEX made Tom the subject of a few of his short glimpses into a boat sailor’s life. This one is titled:
I Wonder What Old Gringo Is Doing
“Did you ever wonder where old deep-water boat sailors go when they turn in their earthly issue and pick up their orders at St. Peter’s receiving station? We’ve all heard the Marines Hymn . . . ‘When The Army and The Navy takes a look on Heaven’s scenes, they will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines.'”
“So we know that we’ll have to deal with jarheads on the gates. Can you imagine spending eternity pulling gate duty? And writing a song telling the world that that was the extent of your eternal ambition? I guess somebody has to do it. I can hear the boot pushers at Parris Island . . . . ‘Listen up now… When you die, we make you an MP and detail you to stand watch on the Pearly Gates to see that those naughty submariners don’t steal the gahdam streets.’
‘Oh goody… Tell me Sarge, do I get to wear my uniform?’
‘You sure do… And you get to spend forever and ever, shining your shoes and brass.’
“Just another of the many reasons that submariners wouldn’t have made ‘worth a damn’ Marines. The way I understand it, old worn out submarine sailors get assigned to Hell but they are given liberty in Heaven . . . . the part of Heaven where all the bars are located and cab fare is free. They don’t issue them wings and the bastards hock their harps for beer money.”
“There is a bar up there called ‘The Sterling Dolphin’ . . . a real dump. It’s on Admiral Burke Boulevard. Beer’s a dime a quart and the furniture is made out of railroad ties. The barmaids are all big busted blondes, farm girls from Kansas. And they hand out their apartment keys to all the qualified men. Old man Holland . . . you know, the clown who invented the first smokeboat and went around with that goofy walrus looking mustache and silly bowler hat . . . Holland plays the piano.”
“And there’s an old Juke Box with four hundred thousand cigarette burns on the top. It only plays Tommy Cox, and Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Margaret Whiting, Peggy Lee and Pattie Paige. The walls are covered with old yellowed photos of “E” Boats, “R” Boats, “S” Boats and all kinds of Fleet Boats, Old Tenders, ASRs and Admiral Lockwood.”
“The head is a mess . . . four old air expulsion, ‘Freckle Maker’ heads and a urinal trough made out of the air flask of a Mark 14 cut in half. And the walls are covered with the names of angels who come with removable bloomers. The wall behind the bar has soft pine paneling and thousands of silver dolphins have been pounded into the wood and an old 127 year old E-3 keeps them Brasso’d up.”
“The pickled hard boiled eggs fall out of the back end of the Golden Goose and they only sell ‘Beer Nuts’ in fifty pound bags . . . for two bits. The Shore Patrols are blind and the liberty cards have no time limits. There’s only one thing on the menu, the ‘Rig for Dive’ Cheeseburger . . . it’s cooked in all that stuff that comes draining out of the George Foreman grill. The name of every sub ever built and their hull numbers are carved in the tops of all the table tops.”
“At the bar there is a stool that belongs exclusively to Tom . . . . it has ‘Old Gringo’ on it in solid gold letters . . . and late in the evening you can find Old Gringo perched at the bar, tossing down suds and wrapping his arm around the best looking gal in the place. Beer is free for any boat sailor who wears a combat patrol pin.”
“Old Gringo has a beer mug made out of a 5 inch shell casing with a hatch dog for a handle. The barmaids keep him supplied with hand rolled Cuban cigars and reports on who’s reporting in and when the bus is leaving for hell.”
“I don’t know if that’s the way it is . . . but that is the way it should be. An old hard core Diesel Boat Sailor should get something like that. One thing is for DAMN sure . . . Tom isn’t standing a damn Gate watch! You can take that to the bank, Horsefly!”
I don’t know if that is the way it is either, but this I do know. My dad remains larger than life, now more than ever, and it will be sweet to see him again . . . . prolly sooner than later. I look forward to that with out fear.