travel

fly me to the moon

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we’ve landed
again
in
las vegas.

actually more
like
drove in.

sinatra
live
at the
sands.
&
some ella
soothe
&
cool
the ride.

we like the
drive.
once
past
barstow

the real
deal
desert
kicks in.

the austere
moon like
desert
filled with
dappled
colors.

crystal city
and our
favorite
hotel
the
palazzo.

visions of
foie gras
dance in
our
heads.

five chances
to play
dress-up
for
dinner.

dead
ghosts
like frank
&
the soprano
crew

walk
the
casino
floors
once again.

i suppose i’ve always liked las vegas. i think it might even be hereditary. mom and dad were married there in the spring of 42 just a couple years before he shipped out to euroland and the war. yeah, sure there was a fairly long spell when i’d hit lake tahoe, rather than vegas, either on pre or post dove hunting up in the central valley. it was nice. quiet. a good place for cards and drinks. plenty of drinks. a late breakfast around 10 or 11. steak. eggs. carbs. plenty of carbs. then campari and soda. with a twist. until i’d fall into bed whenever. even a nice elevator ride chat with patti labelle once. drink still in hand. i oozed how wonderful she and her sisters had been that night down in the showroom. i hadn’t seen them. it just seemed like the right thing to say. though i’m sure they were. or maybe getting off on the wrong floor and scaring some guy so bad he hid in the ice/coke machine room. i thought i was on the right floor. ah, no. two floors from where i was supposed to be. poor dude. i wonder who he thought i was? yeah, tahoe. nice place. maybe even in the winter. i wouldn’t know.

back when i was a kid when my folks hit vegas, tahoe, reno, carson city etc. i was dragged right along. my dad would look for a dice game and mom would find some quiet slot area and i’d watch her play. it would last for awhile but eventually some guy would show up and tell my mother i wasn’t welcome. i’d end up out in the car. napping or people watching until it was time to leave. i guess i was lucky i wasn’t kidnapped or worse. but then those were different times. stuff did happen but not nearly as often as these days.

when i got older but still not 21 i’d play the slots with mom. usually the same end however. i was told to leave. i was also lucky i never hit a jackpot. they would have kept it. no sitting in the car though. i’d just wander. looking.

one of my favorite vegas trips was right after i got back from the nam. my folks took me. the trip was on dad. i don’t remember much other than a very nice dinner at the top of the mint hotel. perfect red fatty protein. then after dinner mom and i went to a show. vic damone and jan murray. vic was great. jan was killer hilarious.

that trip was the first time i followed dad around while he looked for a dice game. he knew what he was looking for, and maybe or maybe not, he’d find it. the game. he had an instinct for it. when he did find what he was looking for and played. he won. i could never figure it out. maybe if he’d taught me craps at age 5 instead of poker i’d know. at any rate, it was always interesting to tag along on his dice game hunts.

they’re both gone now. though i’m sure when the brown eyed girl and i make one of our vegas runs they tag right along. dinner at joel robuchon’s or bouchon. happy that we’re happy. how do i know this? hmm, yeah. ok.

my dad passed away a couple of years ago. mom a few years before that. we had planned a vegas trip in june but dad got sick. or sicker. we had to cancel. he passed away not long after. we went in july. we usually make a pit stop at a mickey d’s in barstow. as we were leaving this big fly made an appearance. you know doing one of those fly dance things when it’s hot and sorta humid. buzzing you. it even made it to the inside the car.

the most persistent fly i’ve ever seen. as we got back on the 15 we played the game of cracking a window and shooing it out. somehow it always managed to get back in. this went on for a while. we eventually got it out of the car but it somehow attached itself to one of the windshield wipers. all of this at 75 miles an hour. it hung on for a time then miraculously got sucked into the cars ventilation system and ended up back inside the car. unharmed. the brown eyed girl and i looked at one another and at the same time said, it’s dad. maybe it was. maybe it wasn’t. maybe we’ll never know. but, well, you get those feelings at times. that’s all i can say.

las vegas. yeah, it’s hereditary.

jmh

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just another desert island music re-visit or a break in the football action

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if you’ve stumbled onto to this while looking for my college football picks for week 8 look to the left and click on it or scroll down to the next entry. thanks. jmh

this is the third version of my must have desert island music must have list. the original idea was to have only 10 LPs or Cds to take with you when you’ve been whisked away to some exotic desert island locale. a fine idea to be sure but to any music aficionado 10 would never be enough regardless of the rules, as abitrary as they might be. plus the fact if it’s going to be over the long haul and you’re stuck there for any length of time you are going to get sick of those 10 Lp/Cds. count on it.

yes, of course, with the advent of the iPod things are different today. however, for the purposes of this adventure and assignment the iPod isn’t part of the equation. no iPods allowed. okay, to be truthful if i were an iPod user things might be different. old school dies hard. real hard.

there is also the fact that over a certain period of time your or my musical taste sort of bounces about here and there. it’s fine to have the original 10 selections and even the next 10 selections plus the honorary mentions along for the ride. the fact of the matter is, it’s not enough. more music is still needed to soothe and replenish. so here i am again re-visiting or adding to my already over flowing 10 must have desert island LPS and/or CD’s. so, once again, in no particular order my desert island music list gets a little longer.

1. gram parsons, ‘the gram parsons anthology’ 2 discs. this clears up some space as it has plenty of stuff on from gram’s brief career. including a number of tunes with emmylou harris, the flying burrito bros, and the birds. yes, some repeats from ‘sweetheart of the rodeo’ but who cares. certainly not me.

2. hank lll, ‘risin’ outlaw’. one of my favorite country CDs.

3. hank lll, ‘straight to hell’. speed metal, punk, and country rolled up into one nifty package. for those times when nothing else will do.

4. bob wills and his texas playboys, ‘the essential bob wills: 1935 – 1947’. boy howdy. ride em cowboy.

5. spade cooley, ‘shame on you’. the other half of the western swing battle of the bands. bob and spade duked it out many weekend here in socal a few years before i was born. spade won. well, up until he pummeled his wife to death in the early 60’s.

6. emmylou harris, ‘wrecking ball’. a grammy for emmy and the usual haunting vocals from one of the best.

7. emmylou harris, ‘the very best of emmylou harris’. more haunting vocals from the best of the best.

8. new riders of the purple sage, ‘new riders of the purple sage’. the 1971 first LP by the group. great songs and vocals. jerry garcia shines on steel guitar.

9. tens years after, ‘ten years after’. their first LP. alvin lee is one of the best ax players ever.

10. tens years after, ‘undead’. more of the same and easy to see why i think these guys were one of the best live acts ever.

there they are. 10 more added to the list. i’m sure at some point there will be more. after all, living out the rest of your fantasy life on a desert island is gonna take plenty of music. for editorial purposes i’m going to add the first two at the bottom of this current list. hopefully, there will be room.

“Never under estimate the influence of country music in rock ‘n’ roll.” Keith Richards

jmh

this started out to be a whole mind numbing run down of a old lp i came across a few weeks ago. stuff i hadn’t heard in a very long time. yeah, like 30 plus years. the problem being someone did a short blog on this band last week with a youtube video stuck in it for good measure. my mind numbing thunder had been stolen. so here i am trying to deal with it.

i’ve looked over the 10 lp’s/cd’s and there really isn’t anything i’d change. i could stick some other stuff in there but then i’d be missing the original stuff. you don’t miss your water till the well runs dry.

so maybe an alternate 10 cd desert island music list is needed just in case of some sort of musical emergency or just because i still need to yammer about this one old lp in particular. the other parameters still stand from the original. i won’t repeat them here because i do that enough as it is and if you really care you can read the original.

1. the byrds — ‘sweetheart of the rodeo’. an amazing piece of country music with some of the best peddle steel guitar you are gonna hear this side of hilo hattie and her old b/w tv show from hilo, hawaii in the 50’s. or perhaps spade cooley and his band on local l.a. tv every weekend back in those same b/w 50’s as well. even if you aren’t a fan of country music this will make you a fan or there’s sumpin’ wrong someplace.

2. tower of power — ‘east bay grease’. that’s the one i’ve been obsessing on for the past few weeks. well, actually it’s a greatest hits cd by the band. so i suppose you could interchange either one. however, ‘east bay grease’ was my introduction to them. i’m really not sure just how far east they went from their oakland, ca roots. hence, east bay grease not to be confused with whatever was going on over in the city or frisco as us un-enlightened ones loved calling san francisco just to piss them off. drifting. if you have never heard tower of power you are missing some of the best soul, r and b, and funk to ever be laid out on vinyl. hands down. just another horn band laying down some good stuff. not chicago, or blood, sweat and tears, or cold blood. nope. tower of power. tight ass horn riffs with a bass line along with drums to make any band jealous. ‘you got to funkifize’, ‘your still a young man’, ‘soul vaccination’, and the truly hip ‘what is hip’. try it you’ll like it.

3. peter green’s fleetwood mac — ‘live at the marquee’. yes, the original and still the best fleetwwod mac. just crunched out down home blues.

4. fleetwood mac — ‘men of the world’. a newer lovely 2 cd package of some more old fleetwood mac from the old days. the original ‘black magic woman’ and ‘oh well’ make it worth your while.

5. frank sinatra — ‘live at the sands’. a great lp with old blue eyes belting em out backed by the count basie band. sweet. it doesn’t get much better.

6. the rolling stones — ‘beggars banquet’. some great stuff including the greatest sing a long line ever from ‘sympathy for the devil’.

7. the rolling stones — ‘now’. ‘pain in my heart’ and ‘little red rooster’

8. the rolling stones — ‘out of our heads’. ‘under assistant west coast promotion man’. along with ‘satisfaction’.

9. the rolling stones — ‘aftermath’. ‘think’ and the countrified tunes ‘flight 505 ‘ and ‘high and dry’. along with the 11 minute masturbatory grand finale ‘going home’.

10. cream — ‘fresh cream’. their first lp.

there ya go. my alternate desert island lp’s. of course no top 10 worth it’s salt could be with out a runner-up. this list is no exception. my runner-up would be a double cd of stevie ray vaughan & double trouble’s ‘greatest hits’. actually it just might be interchangeable with ‘fresh cream’ depending on the mood and the moment.

jmh

i’ve kicked this one around in my head for awhile now. other than being transported to some exotic asian place loaded up with all the stuff i’d ever need and babes to go along with it all, where else would work as a nice place to be whisked off to? the obligatory desert island for me. of course, it would have have a nice break, surf wise. maybe chest high glass all day long with some nice barrels that rolled for a bit just so you could get comfortable riding them with a board or body surfing. a kinda kick back and enjoy the ride along with the scenery deal.

i’d need a couple of marshall amps as well or jbl’s, something with some power to them so while i was out in the water i could listen to my music. yes, my desert island would have electricity. cause i am not going if there is no power for stuff. a long time ago i might have but these days, no, i need some comfort. along with a nice bbq, decent food, maybe a lady or two and of course some dago red or white. hmmm, desert islands are hot so some ice cold chinese beer would be nice as well. then of course there’s the music.

now the rub is, i can only take 10 cd’s with me. that’s it because with all the other crap there’s no more room. you see, whisking machines can only hold so much and with a couple of babes along for the trip i’m sure most of the stuff would be theirs anyhow. leaving me only enough room for the 10 cd’s, a pair of shorts, a university of oregon t shirt, some flip flops plus a surfboard and a swim fin. oh yeah, and the massive speakers. i can travel semi light when the need arises.

the real question has been, what 10 cd’s? what music would i really need? what music is gonna make me happy is what it boils down to. plus, what can i listen to over and over again that won’t drive me mad or madder. good questions. i’ve thought about it and i’ve come up with my 10 selections. of course yours would be different. as sly used to sing, different strokes for different folks. no sly didn’t make the cut. at any rate here they are in no particular order.

1. rolling stones- let it bleed, the opening riffs of ‘gimme shelter’ still give me goose bumps.

2. rolling stones- exile on main street, for me it’s says lots of stuff on all kinds of levels.

3. jimi hendrix- electric ladyland, what could be better than crashing through a tube while body surfing and hearing ‘voodoo child’ screaming out from the sand?

4. bob dylan- highway 61 re-visited, if only for ‘desolation row’.

5. the mothers- burnt weeny sandwich, gotta have some of my mothers and that one pretty much covers the mothers’ spectrum, plus i love it.

6. bob dylan- blonde on blonde, ‘visions of johanna’ and ‘sad eyed lady of the lowland’. nuff said.

7. pink floyd- ummagumma live, the ultimate floyd drug experience lp. i still listen to it just for the contact high.

8. van morrison- moondance, this was a really tough one. it boiled down to this cd having ‘into the mystic’ on it. plus ‘moondance’ and he’s always good for getting the ladies interested.

9. paul butterfield blues band- east/west, there aren’t too many blues cd’s out there much better. this one still kicks ass.

10. the allman bros- live at fillmore east, i’ve said it before and i’ll say it again. this cd is probably the best party cd ever made.

ok. there they are. you are all of course going…well, he’s forgotten and what the fuck is he thinking? and yada yada yada. don’t matter cause it’s my list and my desert island. more importantly, my ears channeling the stuff to be processed by my brain.

this is actually a kind of fun thing to do. it was interesting going over and over stuff to get to the final 10. try it for yourself. the limit is 10 cd’s. no more. oh, i guess you can do less, i wouldn’t, but then it’s all up to you.

music provided by, david bowie, ‘ziggy stardust’, the 30th anniversary edition, an honorary mention.

jmh

gentlemen, the marines are drafting this month

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the re-runs keep on coming this summer. this particular one first appeared almost three years ago. originally it was a two part story. this time around i’m running it as one part. it is what it was and it’s more of my history and yours as well. life throws you knuckle curve balls that can sometimes change everything. even if you just stand there flat footed and watch the ball dance by. there are also odd circumstances in history/life that occur in which you are part but just a minor footnote. also, in case you haven’t noticed it, life can deal out irony like nobodies business. thanks for reading.

jmh

gentlemen the marines are drafting this month

it had already been a bad morning. a very bad morning. however, those seven words sent an electric shock through the hundred or so plus odd souls in the downtown los angeles army induction center, circa dec 1969. things were bad but they were just about to go completely sideways. but i’m getting ahead of myself.

that december day was the second time i’d been drafted by uncle sam. i’d received an induction notice back in may of the same year. i’d managed to get out of that one. i was still in school and actually doing ok for a change. meaning good grades. hell, i was even on the dean’s list. the school got me out of it but warned me if i didn’t go to another school in the fall i’d be history. i’d already spent one of my lifetimes going to that local community college. three years to graduate from a two year school. it was a good thing i drifted into the theatre department. it meant good grades and a sorta reprieve from the inevitable.

yes, it was inevitable. it was all written a few months before i was born in 1948. harry truman re-signed the draft law act and i was doomed while still in my mother’s womb. oh, sure i could have gone to canada but that really wasn’t an option. my father, my uncles, and my godfather. yeah, my godfather, a lucky to be alive heavily decorated big time ww2 combat vet and at the time still in the army. my dad’s best friend. get the picture? doubtful in these weird times.

there were other various ways to avoid the draft. some of which must have worked or the folks in the draft resistance centers wouldn’t have told you about them. though most of the stuff wasn’t something i’d like to try and pull off. say, like crapping in your pants and peeing in them as well for a week or so before your induction physical. that riff was supposed to work as quickly as it took them to get you out of the building. something i didn’t think any sane person could manage. there was another one not quite as bad. it involved a rotten fish, some thread, a needle, and the guts to string the thread through the fish then leave it there to rot along with the fish. after a few days you would take the needle and thread then somehow or another run it through your knee. either one it didn’t matter. this made for an interesting infection in your knee and with the string left there it made for an even more interesting x-ray. no, i don’t think so. thanks, anyway.

another way to avoid the draft if you could come up with $300 or $400 there were doctors that could get you out. maybe. that was the catch, it was only a maybe. however, $300 back in those days might as well have been $100,000 today. plus my folks were just working class stiffs and salt of the earth types. not much cash at that time and one of the reasons i went to the community college to start with. oh, i had some cash but it would have wiped me out. better to just go with some odds and roll the dice. then see what happens. youth, guile, and bluster.

i’d worked through the summer. sorta. i spent a lot of time at the beach or just dicking about. the fall rolled around and i had no plans for school. i was just going to totally lay around and wait for my next draft notice. my parents weren’t happy about this so called plan but then nothing much they could do about it other than bitch. especially when i told them why would anyone want to hire someone who might get drafted next month? i wouldn’t. that usually kept them out of my hair for a few weeks at a time.

the first or second week of november i got my second draft notice. i recall just sitting in the den holding the unopened letter. it wasn’t a pleasant experience.

the swan song of my civilian life was seeing the rolling stones at the forum in inglewood. the infamous 3am show where mick laments he should have brought along his toothbrush. it had been scheduled for much earlier in the evening as the second show of the night. the first show got started several hours late and things just snowballed from there on out. my girlfriend at the time did manage to score peter fonda’s autograph. i finally made it home after the sun had been up for awhile.

just as a drift since i haven’t drifted yet…that particular girlfriend’s parents hated me. i would be in her college dorm room fucking her or she would be giving me head and the phone would ring and it would be her parents or older brother telling her to dump me. the call would go on and on. we would just lay there naked while they ranted on about me. i didn’t care about the call, her brother, or her parents. she swallowed. then she would make some tea to clear her palette as it were. hey, older brother, listen to this. yes, well, my bad.

the fatal morning finally arrived. it was an early morning ride in the dark from de onta out to san berdoo and the swing auditorium for the draft call cattle call. the first stop of the day. the first stop in what was to become an almost two year long living breathing real life twilight zone episode.

it was a sad farewell. parents hugging kids. girlfriends crying. parents crying. young men trying not to cry. it was a sea of misery. then it came time to board the buses for the trip to downtown l.a. a long silent ride in the early morning darkness. private thoughts and prayers hung in the air like a thick fog.

once into the induction center it was the standard army cluster fuck. sorta. take your clothes off put em back on take em off again and wander around naked for awhile going here going there seeing that doctor getting a needle stuck in a vein. yeah, that deal went down with army medics. probably just out of medic school. medics who got lucky when they were sent to the induction center and not nam. at least for the moment.

standing naked in a line with a bunch of other naked guys is no fun. but standing in that line and watching some guy trying to hit pay dirt with a dull seemingly square needle was even worse. i have never seen anything like it. stab, miss, stab again, miss again. no more stabbing just twist the fucker around until the vein was popped and blood drawn. an amazing sight. some of the more feint hearted souls actually passed out watching that action being played out right there before them in living and breathing color.

after the probing and stuff we were given some sort of written test. i don’t recall anything that was on it. though it would play into what was to come later in the morning.

then came time to sit and wait. a game we would all come to play very well. a game that i can still play today. at some point or another we were taken into a room, 30 or 40 of us at a time. it was in this room we heard those fateful words, gentlemen, the marines are drafting this month.

it was more or less fine and dandy we were going to be stuck in the army for a couple of years. well, not fine and dandy but we were at some sort of peace with ourselves and the whole deal. however, this card from the bottom of the deck was more than any sane person could take. suddenly things got even more grim. i’d heard stories about marine corps boot camp from ex-marines during that time period and it’s something i had no wish to experience. the army experience would be more than enough, thank you.

the army officer who had made that statement let it sink in for a few seconds. not that it hadn’t already shaken everyone of us to the core. in those few seconds i came to the realization, that fuck it, i’m going out the open window if i hear my name and the marine corps mentioned in the same sentence.

sure the open window was 4 or 5 floors up from the street but what’s your point? i didn’t care. there were no windows on the lower floors as my friend, jwfh, pointed out and reminded me of yesterday. they had all been bricked over. all of the escape routes covered. either by bricks or army corporals whose sole mission was not to let anyone out of the building. i guess they didn’t think anyone would be fool hardy enough to take a dive from the 4th floor. yeah, well, think again.

they had taken all of our folders and put them in stacks on a a table at the front of the room. each stack had a separate number and letter code. we all had a number and letter code on our folders. say like 6c or 3a. i don’t recall what mine was. plus, i have no idea just how they came up with that number letter code. something to do with mental and psychical shape i’m sure.

after the stacks were completed the officer announced that the marines needed say, 4 6c’s. so the sargent randomly picked 4 folders from the 6c pile. those names were called out and the young men were told to go wait outside in the seating area. then he told the sargent the marines needed 6 3a’s. more random picking and more very very sad young men told to go wait outside. a different number of folders was selected from each of the piles. it wasn’t over until it was over. the group was thinned out by maybe a third and those among us who’s name hadn’t been called were then given the induction oath by the same officer. you’re in the army now.

once that was completed we were told to go wait outside and another group was called into the room. sitting outside, i have never seen more forlorn faces in my life than the faces on those poor guys who were going to go down to pendleton and marine corps boot camp. on the other hand those of us who hadn’t been ‘selected’ were almost ecstatic. go figure.

we waited around until the marines got what they wanted. we were given a bible, a box lunch, some toiletries then we boarded more buses for a 10 hour ride up to ft ord, on the monterrey peninsula. we were supposed to stop for restroom breaks and an evening meal but the driver was having none of that. there would be no one jumping ship or the bus on his watch. no, sir.

we arrived at ft ord around 11pm or later. exhausted and wired in that weird way. life was to become very very different for us all very very soon.

i do not mean to disparage the marine corps. no way. the story is true and was what it was in those times. pure and simple. without the marine corps we would all be in a bigger fix than we are already in. thankfully, there are those among us who still heed the the call of duty, honor, and country. may god bless them one and all. hopefully, some of those blessings will slop over to the rest of us.

i make no apologies for my time in the army or my time in vietnam. it was a sorta righteous deal that went askew. big time. shit happens. it will never be 1941 again. ever. however, that doesn’t mean some sort of applied force someplace is not warranted. iraq seems to be another vietnam. in the last 40 years it’s the only thing teddy kennedy ever got right. pure and simple.

the main problem with vietnam was we just up and left. a sad bad choice. left them to die by the millions. left them to die or worse in the re-education camps. re-education camps right out of mao and the chinese in the 60’s and 70’s. packing up and leaving without finishing the job was bad juju if there ever was bad juju. that bad karma continues to haunt this once great nation. the worst and nastiest re-education camp in vietnam? the old macv advisory 48 compound in ham tan. the place where i spent my year.

jmh

saigon holiday, 1971 part 3

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this is the final chapter of the saigon trip.  i hope you enjoy it as much as the other two chapters.  i want to thank all of you for reading.  i appreciate it very much.

saigon holiday, 1971  part 3

we had to get a cab to the nearest boq.  way too hung over, plus too hot and humid to walk.  after an overly zealous breakfast and along with the cab fare we were broke again.  two more days in saigon and no money give us an idea of sorts.  finally.  grab a cab to air america.  catch a flight and just go back to ham tan.   this means stiffing the cabbie at the gate but we are too broke to care.  we caught a cab and it deposited us at the air base entrance.  we bolt and run like rabbits.  the cabbie to old to catch us and he’s unarmed.

main entrance, tan son nhut air base.

feeling better about things we hit the air america terminal and ask about a flight back to ham tan.  we are told nothing is available for the next two days.  the only flight we can get is the one we had already booked two days down the road.  sleeping on the floor of the cia owned and operated airline for two nights is not allowed.  probably not even for five minutes.  the cia doesn’t run flop houses.

there’s a soldier in the air america terminal who hears of our plight.  he tells us to go to the chopper pad about half a mile away and see if we can hitch a chopper ride back to ham tan.  this lifts our spirits as it’s still early morning.  however, by noon we are beginning to realize we were stuck.  no chopper rides today.

the heli-port at tan son nhut.

we seem doomed to some sort of living nightmare.  when out of the blue this vietnamese army guy with a jeep walks up and says, you guys want a ride?  yes.  where to?  ham tan.  no way, way to dangerous.  so bill comes up with a plan.  i’ll give you this watch if you take us to bien hoa.  we figure we can stay in our company area and go unnoticed for a few days and somehow manage to get back to saigon for our flight back to ham tan.  the guy says, let me see the watch.  of course he doesn’t want it as it’s total junk and had already stopped running.  so no ride.  the viet then says, hey you guys got ration cards?  yeah, we have ration cards.  virgin ones.

you see with ham tan being out in the nowhere boonies the army gave you smokes for free and there was booze on the compound.  you didn’t need to use the ration cards.  so they stayed virgin.  this changed later but at the time it was so.

with that information the viet’s eyes light up.  he says, ok, i give you money.  then we go to the px(post exchange) and you buy all the cigarettes and beer on the cards for this month.  then i’ll take you to bien hoa.

this was actually a mother load for the viet.  the black market value for all the smokes and beer was a nice hefty amount of coin in any man’s language.  having learned a lot in the past day or so we say, nah, for all that you take us to ham tan.  once again, no way, too dangerous.  ok.  we counter with, xuan loc, which is about half way to ham tan.  we know a few guys there and we figure we can spend the night and worry about tomorrow later.  ok, deal, says the viet.  with that it’s off to px we go.

after wards we load the guy up with the smokes and beer.  he then says, ok now we go to bien hoa, driving to xuan loc is too dangerous.   we counter with, ok.  we’ll throw in the junk watch and you don’t get shot right here and right now.  and we go to xuan loc.  the viet takes the watch and drives us the forty miles or so to xuan loc.

an aerial view of xuan loc.

it was late afternoon by the time we got to xuan loc.  the viet guy bitching the whole way.  he dropped us off at another macv advisory team compound and went off to find a place to spend the night.  we ate some dinner, watched a movie, then slept in guy’s bunks that were working the overnight shift in the commo(communication) bunker.

there aren’t many mosquitoes in ham tan.  the beach and all.  too dry or something for mosquitoes even in the monsoon season.  however, in xuan loc they were thick and nasty.  the smell of fresh meat drove them particularly insane that night.  even with mosquito netting they were relentless.  waking up in the morning we found that our sheets were spotted with blood.  our blood.  spotted from rolling over in our semi sleep and squashing the little sated bastards into the sheets.   the guys came in looked at their now blood spotted sheets and were not happy.  xin loi, sorry about that.  it was time for breakfast and planning.  something.  anything.

someone at breakfast suggested we hit the chopper pad and talk to the
air traffic controller.  we say that didn’t work in saigon.  we are told not to worry.  so off we go to the chopper pad.  a very busy place.  even busier than saigon.  you see, in xuan loc there is a war going on.  the air traffic controller tells us ham tan is no sweat.  unless the chopper is on a medivac or a mission, he’ll have them come in and pick us up, for he is the lord of this air space.

a portion of xuan loc international airport.

not long after that a chopper lands and we are pointed to it and told to hop right in.  well, of course the chopper is already full and i have to sit with one leg out in space while i hang on to the door frame.  all this while trying not to get in the door gunner’s way.  my first chopper ride and when it was over i would never want another.  we didn’t know if the pilot was unhappy about being made to pick us up or if he was trying to avoid shit on the ground.  we never found out.  none the less, it was an even worse ride than the flight to saigon on air america.  hard to believe but true.

ham tan in sight.  finally home again.  that’s how it felt.  it always did.  we get back to the compound and everyone is surprised to see  us back so early.  before we can explain why in walks our company commander with the executive officer and first sargent in tow.  we of course are counting our blessings.  thanking everyone from god and buddha to swami vishnu the air controller didn’t flag down their helicopter.  finally some good luck or so it would seem.

this is indeed a rare visit as the company commander never came out to ham tan.  it was too dangerous for him.  he always sent the executive officer out on pay days or for whatever.  but today he’s in ham tan and feeling fine.  noticing bill he says, hold on there lad.  we were trying to get out of the bunker.  is that a .38 special you have there?   first sargent, write him up for that unauthorized weapon, and that boonie hat as well.  yes, sir.  for you see, macv didn’t care what kind of weapon you carried as long as it worked and you could shoot it.  the rest of the military were locked solid into the bullshit.  hats were the same with macv as well.  some other units too but not our signal unit.  as bill was getting reamed i sidled out of the bunker before someone decided to go off on me.  off to the hootch, my bunk, and home for some much needed sleep.

fini

the photos in the story were just taken from various places on the net.  googled, in other words.  i want to thank whoever for having them on the net for me to find and use.  i’m not making any money on this deal so i suppose it might be ok.  any the ways, thanks again to whoever, the photos added to the story.

i used to have photos taken in nam.  even a few from saigon.  those i lost long ago.  moving frenzies being what they are.  frantic.  i also had some photos of ham tan and the advisory team.  those are now being cataloged at texas tech university and their vietnam center and archive.  at some point you will be able to be view them on line in the archive.  you should visit that site: http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/ i think it’s the best vietnam archive in the country.

yeah, i know the ending is sorta anti-climatic.  it was what it was.  all in all, i think it’s a good story.  thanks for reading.

this story/idea is registered with the writers guild of america, west.

jmh

saigon holiday, 1971 part 2

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the saigon, circa 1971, true story continues.

saigon holiday, 1971 part 2

the hotel we decided upon was the caravelle.  the place where all the reporters stayed while in saigon.  plus, we had heard the ladies up on the roof were amazing.  the only trouble is they threw us out.  we weren’t officers or reporters.  just lowly draftees.  so we caught a cab and went to a hotel both of us had stayed in on previous saigon trips.  a decent enough place but not the caravelle.

we arrive at the hotel and check in. the hotel staff are not pleased with the sight of bill’s .38 pistol and low slung holster.  give it to us.  no.  this goes back and forth for a bit but in the end they let him keep the pistol.  we unload stuff in our rooms then head off to get more vietnamese money.  i wanted to go to the uso for my exchange and bill still wanted to go for the street deal.  who’s going to fuck with us?, he says.  i have a 38.  ok fine, but first we go to the uso.   another mad cab ride in one of the ubiquitous old yellow and blue renaults.  they were always mad dashes in those old dented wrecks.

saigon traffic, 1971.  note one of the blue and yellow taxis on the left of photo.

the uso in saigon, a sadder place on earth would be hard to imagine.  the place was totally depressing.  it was as if someone had tossed a wet blanket over saigon.  none the less, i got my money changed.  we head back out on the street and bill searches for the rate he wants, the perfect deal.

there were plenty of saigon cowboys to wheel and deal with.   however, before he got around to his money exchange he buys a watch from one of the cowboys on the street.  the amazing thing was he was conned into buying the watch with gi money.  bottom line, it was an incredibly stupid deal but what could i say?  he wouldn’t have listened anyway.  equally amazing is neither of us was drunk or stoned yet.

bill finally finds the rate he wants from some other sleazy saigon cowboy and the guy says, follow me.   the guy leads us around and around and we end up at the opening of this very dark alley.  dark and it’s the middle of the afternoon.  bill says, hey, we aren’t going in there and remember i have a gun.  the guys says, ok wait here.  then he splits.  when he returns he shows bill a roll of vietnamese money wrapped up in a tight roll with a rubber band around the roll.  bill takes the money, looks it over carefully and says it’s all there.  somehow the guy gets the roll back.  bill then hands him his money.  the saigon cowboy hands bill back the roll then poof he’s outta there.  he runs down the alley while yelling something about mp’s(military police) but there aren’t any around.  bill checks out the roll and finds that only the two outer bills are large denominations.  the rest of them are just ones.  useless vietnamese ones.  about the only thing they were good for would be toilet paper.  bill just got ripped off for two or three hundred bucks.

we are in saigon for three days and now half of our money is gone and   there’s nothing we can do.  no idea where the cowboy went and even if we did it would have been suicide to try and get the cash back.  the cops?  yeah, right.  no way.  street money exchanges were illegal.  so it’s another mad taxi ride back to our hotel then up to the hotel’s top floor for some booze, smoke, women, and hopefully solace.

roof top view from one of the old saigon hotels.  maybe even the hotel where the story takes place.

all the hotels i ever stayed in while in saigon were pretty much the same. the top floor elevator doors opened into something that must have been experienced to fully appreciate.  at least a dozen or more ladies converging on the elevator doors as they opened.  just another insane saigon scene.  all of the ladies trying to grab your private parts at the same time.   grabbing your privates trying to get your attention in hopes of making a ‘connection’ as it were.

we weren’t in the the mood for that action just yet.   we shooed the ladies away and went to the bar for some drinks.  after a few drinks we were more in the mood for the ladies.  we make a connection and two of them sit at the table.  more drinks are ordered.  after a few more rounds the ladies said they were hungry and they wanted us to buy them dinner in the hotel cafe.  by this time we were drunk enough to agree.  hamburgers all around.  some mystery meat that reeked of god knows what.  amazingly we didn’t get sick.

after dinner it was more drinking and scoring some smoke for later.  at some point, and to this day i still have no idea how it happened, my ‘date’ got a hold of my wallet.  things had been bad but were about to get dire in an instant.  yelling about the deal would only have gotten us tossed out of the place.  then it would have been, no room, no sex, no money, no nothing.  when i got my wallet back there was only enough money left to pay for the services of the two ladies for the night.  meaning around $40 or so.  at least we were drunk and about to get loaded with our dates then have some more fun.  tomorrow’s problems were the furthest thing from our minds.

saigon night life, 1971.

that night passed blissfully.  the early morning as well.  while the two ladies shower up bill and i met and wondered just what we are going to do.  now broke and no one to turn to for a loan.  we were stuck in saigon for two more days with no money.  a very sad prospect.

bill’s lady turns out to be a hooker with a heart of gold.  sorta.  she gave us $5 in military money.  then said, that’s enough for breakfast at a boq and a cab ride back to air america.  boq, bachelor officer quarters. a boq but any soldier could go into any mess hall in nam and eat for a very nominal fee or for free.  viets knew air america as they could fly it as well.  sometimes.

we were so happy we could shit.  after the ladies left bill did just that.  a huge turd that refused to be flushed.  a turd the likes of which neither of us had ever seen.  we found the mamasan and she sent some old woman to get the turd to flush.  the old woman was not happy as waved her shit stick about.  cursing in loud vietnamese the old lady finally got the turd to flush.  mamasan then tells us to get out.  she already knew we had no more money.  it was goodbye and get the fuck out of here, gi.

story registered with the writers guild of america, west.

jmh

saigon holiday, 1971 part 1

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i’m re-running this particular series once again. thankfully, they still gets some hits each week. this might make it a bit easier to fiind. thanks for reading.

jmh

long ago in another lifetime i got to spend some time in downtown saigon, south vietnam.  those fun trips were courtesy of uncle sam and you the american tax payer.  you folks and myself included are still paying for those excursions in many ways.  this is a true story about one of my trips into saigon.  there were other adventures in saigon as well but this one was sorta special in a number of ways.

over the years most of you have seen any number of films about the vietnam war.  with the exception of, ‘good morning vietnam’, they were all pretty much your typical war movie.  they were just set in a different time and place with a 60’s and early 70’s pop music soundtrack.  this story is different.  though the soundtrack would be the same.  very loud rock ‘n’ roll.

i think the tale is pretty self explanatory and straight forward.  it could be viewed as a sorta new version of stan and ollie.  though there is a serious side as well but mostly it’s just about two guys that can’t catch a break.  you may see it differently.  just remember this all happened to me in vietnam on one particular trip to saigon.

some of you have seen this story before.  yes, i’m still messing with it.  eventually i might get it right.  i hope you re-read it here.  this is its  first foray into general public viewing circles.  it will appear in several parts.  yes, it is untitled.  there is a title but i decided not to use it here.  plus, i’m not sure i like the title any way.

i suppose i ought to add there is a sorta mature subject matter involved in the story.  if you aren’t mature then don’t read it.  that being said, i’m not your parent.  nor do i want to be.

this story is registered with the writers guild of america, west.

saigon holiday, 1971 part 1

 

i was stationed with macv advisory team 48 in ham tan, south vietnam, from 1970 to 1971, in a signal unit attached to macv(military assistance command vietnam) in order to give them secure communications.  ham tan is 80 miles east southeast of saigon as the crow flies.  the macv compound was an old french mission that was taken over by the u.s. army.  it was and still is located about 3 or 4 klicks (kilometers) from the south china sea.  a fairly nice place relative to other places in vietnam at the time.  as attached signal we didn’t live in the french mission area but in regular vietnam style hooches.  the advisory team, including signal personnel, never numbered more than 50 or 60 soldiers at any time.

by the time i was in vietnam, saigon was off limits due to the usual serviceman’s lust for debauchery.  the military had had enough.  the only personnel allowed in saigon were macv people and military stationed there.  being attached to a macv unit gave us access to saigon.  once cleared with our sargent we just needed to go see the macv clerk or company sargent and they would cut some travel orders for us and off to saigon you went for some sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.  all of this unknown to our signal company and signal battalion headquarters.  they would have frowned upon the very idea.  plus it was illegal for us to be there.  though macv advisory team 48 didn’t really care.

macv advisory teams were a diversified lot.  regular army folk, draftees like me, green berets, cia, and more cia.  the teams had a number of missions as well.  training south vietnamese troops and advising them, running phoenix programs, pru units, and chu hoi programs among other things.  you can google some of the stuff if you are interested.  it would be a good history lesson.  any ways, there were any number of things going on at any one time.

there were only three or four ways you could get to saigon from ham tan.  walk, a very bad idea.  drive, a bit better but not much.  though it was done by us signal personnel.  and that’s a whole other story in itself.  driving from the saigon/bien hoa area or vice versa was at least a four or five hour adventure.  helicopter, wasn’t generally done unless it was an emergency.  or you could take air america, the cia owned and operated air transport system for vietnam, laos, and thailand.  macv would book you a flight, no problem, both ways.  that was because air america flew out to ham tan every day with mail and passengers.  the planes were only 6 seaters with a single large propeller and a rolls royce engine to power it.  they were rated for only 10,000 feet but flew higher to avoid gun fire and artillery.  this made for some interesting flights due to air pockets and the plane being so small.

the air america plane.

a fellow signal mate, i’ll call him bill, and i decided we should go to saigon together.  never having done so as a team.  we would spend the usual three days of getting drunk, smoking dope, and having sex with the bar girls.  a flight was booked and travel orders cut.  a few days before we were scheduled to leave i changed some military script into vietnamese money.  bill said he would opt for doing a deal on the street so he could get a better exchange rate.  by this time military script was illegal tender for the vietnamese as most of it ended up going to north vietnam or so the story went. the day of departure we went out to ham tan’s so called airport early to await our flight to saigon.  ham tan international as we called it.  a piece of crap dirt runway with a wind sock for a control tower and an equally forlorn terminal.

ham tan international airport.

there were only three of us going to saigon that day.  bill, myself, and a macv captain, a black guy, who was going in for business not fun.  i was happy to see that our pilot was one i had flown with a few times before and i thought of him as one of the best.  there was however a co-pilot that day.  something you usually never saw on these particular air america flights.  with the co-pilot seat empty you could sit up front with the pilot.  i did it once and only once.  i’m not pilot material.  nor do i care for heights. we boarded, the wind sock checked and off we went.  at this point it becomes clear why there is a co-pilot.  he’s a new guy and the old vet is checking out his flying skills.

sitting in the passenger section of those planes gave you an unobstructed view of the cockpit.  the new guy revs her up and begins the take off.  only thing is the plane is bouncing like a ball down the dirt runway.  the bounces kept getting bigger and bigger.  so much so it was obvious we were in big trouble.  the old hand grabs the controls of the plane moments before we run out of runway and careen into certain disaster.  he then miraculously gets us airborne while yelling all the time at the new guy.  the black captain, who was very black, was a nice shade of gray at this point.  i was ready to jump.  but it was only the beginning. the plane got off the ground and up into the clouds and air pockets, made even more hair raising with the new guy at the controls.  instead of the usual several hundred foot drops we were dropping several thousand feet with lots of yelling coming from the cockpit.

we finally made it in one piece to tan son nhut air base in saigon.  the new guy is bringing us in for the landing.  at about 30 feet or so off the ground the air traffic controller radios that a plane load of dead bodies is coming in and they have priority.  we were being waved off.  the old hand grabs the controls and makes this amazing left turn while he flips the plane over on it’s back.  yeah.  we flew upside down at 30 feet or so over most of the air base.  simply amazing.  bill and i about crapped our pants.  the black captain had turned white.

after the hair raising turn we go back for another try at landing.  the new guy back at the controls.  this time the guy can’t get the plane on the ground.  this is a huge runway due to jets, bombers, transports, etc.  however, he’s fast running out of runway and he can’t get the plane below 10 feet.  there’s only a few yards of runway left when the old vet grabs the controls, yet again, and dumps us on the ground like a stone.  i suppose it was either that or another left with a flip over deal again.  i don’t think he was up for another one of those.  his passengers sure as hell weren’t.

we were a long way from the air america terminal.  during the entire taxi ride to the place its more yelling up in the cockpit.  we get to air america and what’s waiting for us are the dead bodies in their body bags nicely lined up on the tarmac.  the perfect ending to a memorable flight.  the old vet pilot felt sorry for bill and i so he gave us a ride in his personal car to our hotel.  it was out of the guy’s way but he figured he owed us.  a very nice gesture indeed.

tan son nhut air base from the air.

story registered with the writers guild of america, west.

jmh

just another road trip

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the time has come for another road trip.  lord knows i need one after the past month or so of dealing with way too much reality.  dad is squared away for the time being and whatever leftover stuff from mom’s passing can wait a week.  the important stuff has already gone down.


on a drift, i have to say that at least dealing with social security wasn’t so bad.   really.  of course, the bullshit button pushing at the start of the call is pretty much stupid and a waste of time.  but once you get someone to actually speak with things are or went ok. well, so far.  on the other hand, dealing with the california public employees retirement system was like, you must be kidding, right?  that process just goes to show you and affirm the obvious, the late great state of california is in even bigger trouble than anyone thinks.

any the ways, i’m in my pre-trip angsty mode.  the waiting is the hardest part.  it always is or at least for me it is.  i need to be behind the wheel heading out on the highway.  as usual this trip is up to the central valley and my heart of darkness.  long days and nights of drink and bbq or homemade italian stuff.  dago red consumed by the case.  all manner of meat protein charred on the grill.  arcane old italian recipes made famous by dead relatives still live and breathe new life, by at times, unsure hands.

by next weekend, food and drink will have already taken a heavy toll on our old bodies. but then it’s time to get weird time.  and like hunter thompson used to say, ‘when the going gets weird.  the weird turn pro.’  we will turn pro and head up into the sierras and 3 days of dark madness.

i need this trip.  more so than ever before.  the brown eyed girl knows this.  i know this. the hammer must come down on sanity and real life drama.  the 11 year old boy mentality needs to come kicking and screaming to the forefront bashing the straight and normal world to pieces.  ah, yes.  breathe deep.  suck in atom heart mother.  insanity is only skin deep.  let loose it’s reign.

see you on the flip side.

jmh