Posts Tagged ‘Nj’

It seems like a year’s worth of things happened in those weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I spent my mornings in the office, my afternoons at the theatre and my evenings in the officer’s club or meeting the local theatre people in a round of Holiday parties. What an eclectic bunch they were, mostly military or families of military, but the a few community folks who liked to help out.

I rented an apt in the same complex as Sgt. Healy and arranged for the Army to deliver my furniture (what there was of it) from West Va, where it was in storage in my in-laws garage.  There was much to learn about the Army way of doing things and the mountains of paperwork required to accomplish anything. Fortunately, Wendy was an expert and neither I nor Mr. A needed to worry much about it. We did have to know about it though. Even secretaries got days off.

There were two very memorable events that happened within days of one another to cement my connection to this place and these people.

One night I was at the Officer’s club having dinner alone at the bar when a friend of mine from Indiantown Gap basic training walked in. Now sporting a bushy moustache and a dress green uniform, he was very much the Army Officer. Lt. Carl (as in Carlo) Esteban was a gregarious and funny guy. A lot of fun to be around. He immediately walked toward me in the bar and grabbed me by the neck shouting “What the fuck, What the fuck…do you believe this?! You’re here too. We are 2 lucky sons-a-bitches. Did you just get here?”

“No been here a month. “

He rolled his eyes. “Where are you assigned?”

I said “Special Services”

“Holy Shit, really?”

“Yep.” I told him my story.

“Mother fuck me, that is one great story…you need to stay under the radar, though if you wanna keep that cushy job”

By now we were drinking beer, my dinner taken away. “I think I can if you will stop shouting it to the entire room!”

“Oh pffft”…beer flying out of his nose,  “good thinking.”

He told me about a couple of the guys who had in fact gone to South East Asia…but he didn’t know about any of the rest. He was a training officer in an infantry battalion, so, in theory, he could be next, but he didn’t think so. Never knew why he felt ‘safe’…but I never saw him again either.

As we drank and laughed we were joined by a friend of his. They began talking about the Jersey Shore and asked me what I thought of it.

“Never been.”

“Really? You gotta go.”

“In fact I have never even seen the ocean. I grew up in WVa, never travelled much till now.”

“Oh wow,man, that is fucking terrible. Let’s go now.”

“What?”

“I’ll drive; it’s not far, Let’s go.”

“It’s snowing.”

“So?” “Come on, we gotta go.  It’s Friday night we got nowhere to be tomorrow. C’mon,” as he paid the check for all of us.

“Hey, don’t do that my dinner was on that check.”

“Fuck it man, we’re loaded. Never had so much money in my life!”

So the three of us left the club, got in Carlo’s car and set out for Seaside Heights, New Jersey at 9PM on a snowy December Night. We stopped for beer(of course). And drove and talked the 2 hours to the shore. I don’t recall seeing any other cars on the shore road.

We parked the car near the boardwalk, most places were dark. Carlo said he knew a bar that would be open. But first—the beach.

The wind whipped up and snow whirled around us as we stepped between buildings, onto the boardwalk and down a few steps to the beach. A light coating of snow lay over the sand, the stars shone brightly in the deep black sky, and for the first time in my life I heard the the roar of the ocean. Saw the white caps in the dark night slither along the sand. In front of me was a vast expanse of blackness rising and falling as far as I could see. It was terrifyingly wonderful. The air was cold but the ocean smell was fantastic.

I stood there a few minutes looking out, falling in love with the majesty of the ocean, even on a dark winter night. Tears filled my eyes and I was embarrassed to turn around and face these guys I barely knew, so I just stood there absorbing every bit of it until someone said, “okay fucker, you’ve seen it now, I am freezing.” And smaked me on the back. It was cold.

We walked along the beach and the boardwalk a little way until we saw some light off to the left on a side street. Moments later we opened the door to a small barroom with a pool table, a pinball machine, a juke box and a a pot bellied stove in the middle of the room. A few locals were sitting around the stove, the bar man among them. He greeted us and asked what kind of Budweiser we wanted, taking three from a cooler.

“What you fellows doing out here this time of night?”

Carlos told him they had brought me to see the ocean. We were still in uniform, so he needlessly told them we were at Fort Dix.

That information got us each a shot of something awful.

We sat and talked with them for an hour or so, then hurried back to car and drove silently back the way we had come.

Carlos dropped me off in front of BOQ at about 2 in the morning. Ii thanked him for the beers and the experience.

“See you again, pal. It was a good time”, he said, his friend grunting something from the back seat.

“See ya, I said”

I never did.