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Archive for April, 2009

Marina Illustrata

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Marina worked upstairs at the D-Shell club in Olongapo in the Philippines. Freddie took me there the first time our ship docked in Subic Bay, to meet his steady girl there that he jokingly referred to as “Helen of Olongapo,” because, by way of servicing and sending on their merry way so many sailors who came to town, she had likely helped launch at least a thousand ships. The club was dark inside, even at midday, and had a huge hardwood floor and heavy expensive looking mahogany chairs and dining tables with white table-cloths that seemed out of place in such an establishment . The girls sat listlessly lounging on the chairs in the noon-day heat in their little cotton dresses, their slender brown legs bare to the thigh.

Helen was one of the prettier girls, thirty-ish with long dark hair and light skin and western features, and a splendid figure. When she saw Freddy, she stood up and smiled right away.

“This is my little sister,” she said, “Marina.”

Marina was prettier even than her older sister. She inched toward me, timid and uncertain as a deer, and when we sat down at a table and ordered our San Miguel beers she had pulled her chair next to me. Neither of us knew how it worked, or the right thing to say, but as the day turned to night, in typical Marxian fashion, economics prevailed and we ended up alone together in a room at the Prince Hotel across the street. It was a one-room room with white plaster walls and an open window on the back alley, a tiny sink, a chair, a bed and a large fan whirring in the corner. The rattle of an occasional Jeep-ney passing outside on the street wafted in on the wind.

Marina lay beside me on the bed, and when I drunkenly began to grope at her, she turned quickly onto her stomach and buried her face in the pillow. I thought she was crying, but when I started to stroke the back of her neck she playfully rolled over, laughed and began to kiss me. Her dress had ridden up on her, and I pulled gently at her panties, and back she rolled onto her belly. I could see that she was toying with me, for whatever reason, and she didn’t want to get right to business as advertised. So I pushed her off the bed.

She lay there on the hardwood floor, and when I looked over at her she stuck out her tongue at me. I knew that occasionally you got a whacky one and, if so, I was in over my head with her and needed help, or maybe she had seen too many movies, so I tried to think what John Wayne would do in my situation.

“Have you ever been spanked?” I asked her, thinking that might be what she wanted.

“I have had that one,” she spat back at me so angrily that I didn’t dare correct her English, so I quickly took a new tack.

“Please get back into bed,” I said. “I’ll let you alone. I won’t bother you.”

“But then you won’t pay me.”

“No,” I agreed.

She lay there thinking what to do, and pounded at the floor with her fist. When I called her a spoiled little brat who only wanted her way, that only made her more angry.

“If you don’t get up off the floor, I’ll pick you up.” I said, finally. How heavy could she be? I wondered.

When she still didn’t get up, I knelt down beside her on the floor, and put my arms beneath her prostrate body on either side of her ample center of mass, which she pressed harder against the floor, but despite all her effort, dead-lifting her was only slightly more difficult than lifting an ornery 100 pound bag of cement. As I held her in my arms, I suddenly realized how very lovely she was, and how aroused I had become while we were wrestling on the floor, and after all those days of abstinence at sea, I just couldn’t hold it anymore. When I threw her down on the bed, she rolled quickly back onto her stomach but there was no longer any need.

I stood there feeling not very John Wayne-like, and too drunk to care about the trickle running down my leg. Her dress had ridden up in the back, exposing her panties, so I smacked her rear end once with the flat of my hand.

“Ouch,” she said, a little after the fact.

I finally passed out on the bed beside her, and when I came to in the middle of the night, I fully expected to find Marina gone with all of my money. I wouldn’t have blamed her. But she was still there in all her glory. She had taken off her dress, and placed it on the chair with her shoes, and now lay on her back like the Queen of Sheba, with a triumphant simper on her face, her legs parted ever so brazenly. I rolled onto her and began to kiss her, but she didn’t wake up and after several more minutes of that I figured she must be pretending to be asleep. I pulled at her panties, and yanked them down to her knees, and didn’t get a response. I kissed her below the belly, and felt gently for her, and still she didn’t move. By now I was totally turned on to her little game, and the warm, blubbery moistness I felt inside her, so much so that I figured she must be menstruating. It never occurred to me that she might be ovulating.

When I awoke the next morning, Marina was standing at the little sink with her dress hiked up, and her panties pulled down.

“You f*cked me while I was asleep,” she said, accusingly.

“You were just pretending to be asleep,” I retorted.

“No, I wasn’t!” she insisted.

“Well, if you wasn’t,” I replied, mocking the way she had unvoiced the “S” , making it sound like “wassn’t”, “then you must have had quite a dream.”

“I was drunk,” she said, her lie betrayed by a sheepish little grin.

“Well, so was I,” I replied, and we left it at that.

I saw Marina several months later, and she seemed no worse for wear, though I noticed that she looked a bit heavier and felt thicker than I remembered, like she might have been retaining water. I’ve run it over and over in my mind for obvious reasons, and I didn’t think that she was pregnant, at least she never mentioned it and she wasn’t showing any bulge at all in her stomach. But when I saw her the following year, after who knows how many more months, she definitely was with child. I don’t know why I never thought to do the math to be sure – I just assumed after seeing her that second time, that I had dodged a bullet. Besides, I knew that many of the girls who worked the streets in Olongapo, had steady boyfriends that they lived with in Angeles City by the airbase, and Marina being one of the youngest and prettiest, was sure to have at least one.

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Except for that one time, I had been careful not to get her pregnant, and she had been careful not to give me another opportunity. After our first encounter, I still liked her and would sit with her in the club and buy her drinks or dinner, or whatever she wanted, but I always left the bar well before closing. I’d stagger out to the street and buy a piece of the barbeque that the sailors lovingly called “monkey meat,” from one of the street vendors, and some girl would come along. Once I ended up way out on the edge of the city somewhere, with the “Ooh Ooh, Ahh Ahh” of the jungle birds cackling away and lizards stuck like decals to the walls and ceiling. Another time I found myself laying beside a young, pregnant girl, who wanted to make sure I got back safely, so she rode back to town with me on one of the Jeep-neys.

When it was clear that Marina had become pregnant, I began to feel a true affection for her, and a little sad that I wasn’t the father of her soon to be born child. We would sit and I would hold her hand or stroke her big belly, and she even spent the night with me several times. I knew that I shouldn’t fall in love with her for many reasons, not the least of which being the fact that she was a prostitute. We were fighting a war, and I was on a ship that came for days only, and went, and could be called away or sent home to the states any time, but she was just so lovely and vulnerable now – and safe.

We went away again to the war and on to Yokosuka, and many more months passed, and Freddy transferred to a ship in the Mediterranean fleet. When I stopped by the club the next time we were in Subic Bay, Marina had just had her baby and was still recuperating. She sat in her robe on one of the chairs with her feet up on another, and I could see one of the other girls holding a little bundle in her arms.

“Come and see your son,” she said.

[Ed. Photo Credit – The pictures are cartoonized (kusoCartoon.com) versions of original photos of Audrey Tautou, the French actress. When I saw her in character, she reminded me of Marina in my story.]

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fudge

This is a pretty simple recipe.

2 Cups of Sugar
2/3 Cup of Milk
3 rounded Tbsp of Creamy Peanut Butter (Skippy)
2 Tbsp Corn Syrup, but I use cheap store-brand Maple Syrup
1/4 tsp salt

Put all ingredients in a saucepan and heat on medium heat, stirring constantly, until the peanut butter is completely melted. At that point, the mixture will begin to boil up and resemble the molten surface of Mars. Continue boiling for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from burning.

Test for “soft ball” by spooning out a half tsp or so of the molten fudge and dropping it into a cup with a couple inches of cold water. The fudge will spread out on the bottom, but eventually you will be able to gather it together with a finger, and when it forms easily into a soft blob, remove the fudge from the heat. You’ll probably have to test it two or three times before it’s right. Don’t let it get too sticky, or it won’t be fudge and you won’t be able to cut it.

2 Tbsp Butter or Margarine
1 tsp of Vanilla

Drop butter and vanilla into the fudge, but don’t stir it yet. Let it cool for 20 minutes give or take, until it’s just warm to the touch.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch bread pan or small cake pan.

When the fudge has cooled sufficiently, add some walnuts if you like them and begin stirring with a wooden spoon, and stir for several minutes until the fudge is thick enough that the ripples on the surface begin to hold their shape. It will also start to lose its shine. Pour immediately into the pan. Don’t wait too long or you won’t be able to pour it out. It’s actually better to pour the fudge before it’s too thick, and continue stirring it in the pan.

Refrigerate for a half hour or so, and cut into pieces. Ideally the fudge will be soft enough to cut with a butter knife but firm enough to form nice pieces.

[Editor’s Note: Picture to follow.]

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The self-portrait is a great first project for those with poor hand-to-eye coordination, severe nervous disorders, or even if you can’t see past your nose. Disable the flash by pressing the proper button or menu option, and hold the camera about 6 inches to 1 foot away from your face, so it will be clearly visible in the photograph, and aim the lens toward your image in the mirror. You can center the image in your view-finder by glancing surreptitiously out of the corner of your eye, but don’t let the camera see you do it or you’ll look dumb.

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Repeat and try again with other settings and different lighting until you capture just the right dumb expression on your face and achieve the right amount of blur in the photograph, to hide all of your imperfections and skin problems. Ideally you should look better in the photograph than you imagine you do in real life.

And, as the French say, “Viola!!”

bill-april-2009

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This Little Piggy…

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The Battle of Dong Hoi – Vietnam

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A MIG 17 came out of the mountains, went “feet wet” and passed directly over the USS Sterett. It then made a turn up the track of the strike force that included the USS Oklahoma City and Lloyd Thomas DD 764 and dropped two 250 pound iron bombs on the next ship in line the USS Higbee DD 806. Moments before this, the USS Higbee experienced a hot round in her after gun mount. This hang-fire condition forced evacuation of the mount as a precautionary measure. One of the MIG’s bombs dropped on the vacated after mount and the other one dropped into the water along side her fantail.

Just as the MIG pulled up from her bomb run and banked to starboard toward the safety of the mountains, The USS Sterett achieved a missile “lock-on” and fired two Terrier missiles, one of which downed the MIG.

Higbee’s steering gear had been damaged by the attack. She encountered no fatalities and damage control teams had the fires quickly under control. USS Sterett stood by, as Higbee fought her fires, completed her turn and proceeded out of the area, still with her rudder inoperative. USS Sterett continued to stand by Higbee. On her own power Higbee headed for DaNang, South Viet Nam, since DaNang was the closest friendly port.

[Ed. Reblogged from http://home.att.net/~iris.gardner/subic.html where you can read more of the details.]

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My Simpsons Character

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My Favorite Weed

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I never liked weeds. Now that I’m older and wiser, I don’t like them even more. I used to tangle with them all the time, when I was a boy, but as I’ve grown older and weaker and more ambivalent towards them, they seem to have gotten even ornerier and more firmly planted.

Last year my nephew hired some guys to clean up my yard, no questions asked. They tore out all the yuccas, which spread and grow in Southern California like weeds themselves, chopped several trees down to the ground, including some large palm trees, and were as ruthless as any biblical King of Judea toward my collection of weeds, whacking without mercy any that were over an inch tall. But in spite of all that effort, the weeds are back.

I’ve been giving them a lot of thought lately, mostly to how to get rid of them, but also reflecting on what exactly it is that weeds do, and I’ve concluded that they are nature’s placeholder. Where nothing else can or will or wants to grow, weeds will grow. They don’t seem to need water, they don’t need sunshine, they surely don’t need love, they don’t need anything or anybody really, they’re loners, but they create quite a stir and a lot of buzz among the local insect population. Honeybees spend quite a bit of time pollenating them, wasps too, the gold ones and even sometimes the more sinister looking black and gold ones. When they first started to appear this spring, ladybugs were all over them. Some of them have fuzzy horsetails, some have pointy leaves that scratch your arms and legs, and some have furry balls that fly off and make you sneeze. On the side of the house by the gas meter, there’s some funny weeds that look like they might be smokable; I think the neighborhood kids planted them. I pull them out whenever I mow over there, but they make me itch terribly when I have to touch them.

This morning I was pondering what to do with this one other variety of weed, that has grown very tall and lately taken over all of the flowerbeds in my backyard. It has a leaf more akin to a geranium than any other weed, and a tough, sinewy stalk, but it’s roots seem to go very deep, and I can’t pull them out even when the ground is wet. It’s an amazing little weed, and it’s amazingly adept at geometry.

This particular weed is full of tiny little white blossoms, that form each one inside their own tiny little pod. Before the blossom appears, the weed begins weaving a tiny little bird-nest basket inside the pod, shaped like a perfect little toroid, with a white disk with a sharp point in the center, but you don’t actually see the basket until the flower falls away. As the pod opens, the leaves that protect the little basket, there’s five of them, form perfect little 5-pointed stars, each one curving just enough to make the star shape. Afterwards, when the leaves fully open, they flatten into perfect, little 5 sided pentagons.

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Detail showing the pentagon. Note the little basket in lower right.

I looked up weeds on the internet, but I wasn’t able to identify it from any of the photos or descriptions. I thought it might be a form of chickweed called star chickweed, but the leaf is entirely different. I hope it’s not poison ivy. 🙂

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