Anyone Remember the California Bar?

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong

Since the individuals named in this one are (A) still alive, (B) probably own large caliber handguns, and (C) know my current address, the names will be changed… Not to protect the innocent, since innocence was never used in conjunction with the name of either party.

Spanish port… Place called "The California Bar"… Cantina downstairs… Lukewarm cerveza… Cross between beer and llama urine… Well-worn barmaids and heavy wooden tables with the names of five thousand ships and their hull numbers whittled in the tops. Ceiling fans and flower pots were suspended from the overhead. Probably a lot of you remember the place… After all, SOMEBODY had to have carved the names and numbers of every East Coast boat in those tabletops.

Upstairs, ladies in T-shirts and white cotton panties marketed true love, undying affection and intimate personal relations in increments of 30 minutes at 200 pesetas… Or, as we used to say, "200 potatoes…" A little slice of 'Mediterranean Wedding Night' with the meter running.

Boat sailors seem to gravitate to a particular establishment. No matter where you go, someone in the crew has "Been there before and knows this great place… Not that far from the Fleet Landing."

'Great Places' are great places to lose your money, drink stuff you have no idea what it was before fermentation set in and to pick up exotic forms of athlete's foot… Imported stuff… The kind that laughs at Desenex.

There is a little known fact about the Cold War diesel boat Navy… One of our humanitarian missions was to collect various strains of potent toe fungus and carry them to various remote continents to colonize and go forth among men. Athlete's foot… That equal opportunity, gender blind, non religious bias, respecter of no ideology, present that tells those you love, you brought home something that will remind them of you when you are far away answering bells on the snorkel.

Ah yes, the California Bar… Palma… On some nights, Big Mama ran a 3 girl special… This is the Iberian lust equivalent of an Eckerd Drug Store marketing ploy… Buy two, get one free.

This nameless smoke boat bluejacket off this nameless fleet boat, forks over the requisite 500 pesetas representing the compensation for what was known in SUBRON SIX parlance as the "Whitman Sampler." In other squadrons, this package deal was also known as "Trips with hips" or an "Eeny-meenie-moe."

Mr. Nameless E-3 qualified man has completed door number one and is tip-toeing down the hall, his whites, skivvy shirt and neckerchief over one arm, his shoes and socks in the other. The only uniform, if you would call it that, was skivvy shorts, dog tags and chain, and white hat perched on his head.

In the corridor, he runs into the gun boss, a two-striper who is also on a 'Trips with hips' excursion. The lieutenant is wearing dog tags, skivvies and socks… And he too, has his hat on his head sideways.

After E-3 nameless completes his mission and comes down to where his mates are tossing down a few brews, he says,

"Holy jumpin' jeezus… You'll never guess who I ran into topside!"


"Mr. So n' so."

"No shit!"

"Yea idiot child, no shit."

"What did 'ya do?"

"I saluted…"

"You WHAT!?"

"I saluted the sonuvabitch."

"Why in th' hell would you salute going down a whorehouse hall?"

"We were both covered… Somthin' they said at the Lakes… If you're both covered, you exchange salutes."

"Did Mr. So n' so exchange salutes?"

"No, he just walked past and said 'I see the fleet idiot is getting laid.'"

If the fleet idiot reads this and recognizes himself, he will notice how tactfully and delicately the subject was handled. No reference to name, no reference to rate, and not a damn thing mentioned about the mechanized dandruff the girls loaded you with to hitchhike back to the boat and liven up the Alley.