Our Lady Of The Blues
Books V and VII have already been published on reprindle.wordpress.com
If fortune has removed you from the foremost position in the State, you should nevertheless stand your ground and help with your words, and if someone stops your mouth you should nevertheless stand your ground and help in silence. The service of a good citizen is never useless; by being heard and seen, by his expression, by his gestures, by his stubbornness and by his very walk he helps.
–Seneca: Tranquility Of Mind
The Sins Of Satan
A lonely young man sits on his seabag at the head of the pier. He sits contemplating a ship. The Ship was a Destroyer Escort. The Ship was the USS Teufelsdreck, DE 666. The young man had been assigned to serve aboard it.
The young man thus sat because an Old Salt had told him that as he was about to spend an undetermined time aboard it that he should take time to evaluate it so that he could confirm himself as to its character so as to make the best of the time he must serve aboard it.
The young man sought to follow this very good advice although he had none of the skills requisite to use as this was his first tour of duty. Nevertheless he sat and stared. As he did elements of his fate were coming together. Other young men assigned to the Teufelsdreck were picking their way across the Naval Station toward it.
Two other men stood on the port wing of the boat deck idly observing the young man on his seabag. The drama was about to begin.
The Navy may be the last surviving feudal organization in the world, along with the other branches of the military. This is that society in equilibrium that certain social historians waxed eloquent as the perfect social structure in which the competitive anxiety of modern times was replaced by the bliss of everyone knowing a place and knowing where his was. And, one might add, be quite content to stay there.
If those historians really believe that let them explain the hyper-violent reaction called The French Revolution In the Navy most men just took their discharge papers as soon as they were able and walked away. Only a certain type of person could endure it.
As a practical society based on voluntary, if temporary, association the Navy was a truly amazing organization.
It would be very easy in the author’s hatred of it to merely revile it. But that would be to willfully fail to understand an essential and admirable unit of society. As the Navy must exist it could exist on no other basis.
Unlike a business enterprise the Navy had unlimited access to money whether it succeeded or failed. The chiefs of staff realized that they would never have access to the best and brightest. They would have to recruit from the least successful ranks of society. But, they had access to unlimited manpower. One must also bear in mind that this was the military; in times of war any unit was subject to sudden depletions of manpower. In manning ships this had to be taken into account. Thus at some time in the past all tasks had been reduced to their minutest component elements.
Even though one man might be able to perform several elements by himself a man was assigned to perform each segment. Thus, where a crew of three might suffice, ten were employed.
The tasks were devised in such a way that a man of minimal intelligence or experience could perform them without stretching his mind. While this was brilliant organizational strategy it also reduced the quality of men who would tolerate such stultifying tasks. Career men tended to be the dullest of men. In fact men who couldn’t make it on the outside.
Bu, now, notice a curious effect. The Navy was an alchemist which could turn men of lead into men of gold over a period of twenty years. In the first place after twenty years at the young age of thirty-eight you were discharged and given a life time pension of half your wage. And then, these men, mostly released as Chief Petty Officers, were eagerly sought after by employers as great catches. Thus men who were unemployable twenty years before became especially desirable. Amazing, huh? Believe me they weren’t any smarter twenty years after than they were twenty years before.
The organization of the Navy was of the simplest. At the top was the Captain of the ship. He was a king, there was no disputing his word. He was the law. There was a code he had to follow but the rule was do as you were told first, complain later. Later it was a moot point so the code was ineffectual; the captain was the law. Theoretically if he told you to jump over the side you could be court-martialed for disobeying the order.
The ship belongs to the captain. He spoke of the ship as ‘my ship.’ He spoke of the crew as ‘my men.’ He wasn’t wrong either. His executives were his fellow officers aboard ship. Each was assigned a single task that left them thirty-eight hours of leisure during a forty hour work week.
Below Captain and Officers were ‘the men.’ They are the backbone of the Navy. All a ship needs to function is a Captain and men. The officers were a superfluous caste whose only function was as a training ground to become captains.
The ship was run by the Chiefs. They alone had the knowledge to make it function. They alone had the time in rank to understand the tasks. The officers in training who were ignorant of how things worked were forced to defer to the Chiefs almost as equals, although the Chiefs were still enlisted men. If a division officer couldn’t get along with his Chief he was in deep trouble. Thus once again the Navy turned inferiors into superiors. The Chiefs knew everything but did nothing. Except for certain formalities and emergencies their time was their own.
The First Class Petty Officers actively supervised the men with the assistance of the Second Class Petty Officers. The title ‘Petty Officer’ means exactly what it says; they were minor officers but without executive status. Being minor they had no real dignity. Neither First nor Second Classes actually did any work but it was their duty to instruct.
Third Class Petty Officers and Seamen did the work. One entered the Navy as a Seaman Recruit and issued forth from boot camp a Seaman Apprentice. One took a test to become a Seaman but it was in reality a mere formality. For payroll purposes these ratings were styled E (for Enlisted) 1-7.
By rotating Sailors every couple of year or whenever it suited the Navy the Regulars became familiar with many different ships, each other and most contingencies. Although it was possible to spend one’s entire enlistment on Tin Cans, that is say Destroyers and Destroyer Escorts with breaks of Shore Duty, by the time you were on the way out you had been around the Navy.
At this time the difficulty of Navy life was compounded by the division of the fleet into Regular Navy and Reserve Navy. In 1955 the Naval Reserve Act was amended. Up to that point a Reserve signed on for eight years with no obligation to go active. After August of 1955 the term was reduced to six years but you were obligated to spend two years on active duty.
Most men joined the reserves in high school. It then made sense to take your two years of active duty directly after high school. So beginning at about this time the Navy had a surfeit of eighteen year old recruits. The fleet was very very young.
Also at this time the Old Guard which had served way back before the Gods were born during the Big One were leaving the service. Their psychology, formed in the teens and twenties was quite different from the psychology of the Reserves, both officers and men, formed in the forties and fifties. Thus not only did the old timers have expectations which the Reservists couldn’t understand but the Reservists were despised as not being Regular Navy thus creating a serious dichotomy in the souls of the boys in blue.
The frictions were intense. What interest the Reservists might have had was destroyed by the attitude of the old timers and Regulars. They said things were falling apart; the Reservists thought the Navy was stupid as it had nothing to do with them. The result was disintegration.
It should also be borne in mind that the men came from the least successful segments of society. They came pretty much from the lower half of their high school classes. It might be an unpleasant fact but it is true, they no visible prospects outside. There were many intelligent men amongst them but on the whole they were not the best and brightest. Many were fleeing from unpleasantness at home. Perhaps a pregnant girl friend they didn’t want to marry.
At the time it was the custom for first offenders to be offered the alternative of jail or the service so not a few of the men were criminals on the lam.
The differences between the expectations of the Officers and the Men were so pronounced that the officers, who were supervising only the dregs of society, where not unwarranted in mis-believing they were gods among mortals. They acted like it, especially those who were Reservists, and they paid for it. At least aboard the Teufelsdreck.
The Teufelsdreck was in 1957 fourteen years old. Commissioned during the war it had survived a number of campaigns out among the islands. It was no longer young but it was still a grand old specimen of the shipbuilders art.
It was not only no longer young but was now obsolete. The march of progress and rendered it nearly useless. This time was the cusp of the transition from the armaments of The War to modern rocketry and electronic warfare. They would try to update the old ship but it was just too small for the upcoming modern Navy.
The Teufelsdreck was an example of the smallest warships afloat. It was only three hundred six feet long, twenty-five at the beam. It wasn’t even big enough to assume life, to develop sinews, or circulate the life blood of the small ship it was. It had no majesty.
Its bigger companion, the Destroyer at four hundred twenty five feet, assumed the real majesty of a man of war. The DE was just a toy ship. Its whole purpose was to intercept torpedoes destined for the real ships. When the flotilla was on the Main it rode the waves in three rings. The carriers which needed all the protection they could get were in the middle. The Destroyers flanked the carriers while out on the perimeter the DEs flanked the Destroyers. Enemy subs flanked the DEs.
The main armament of the Teufelsdreck was it K-guns and Hedgehogs, both powerful anti-submarine weapons. The K-guns lined both side of the fantail, while two long racks were positioned to drop depth charges off the end of the ship.
The K-guns were K shaped mortar-like devices designed to throw a depth charge a hundred or three hundred feet or so from the ship. The depth charges could be set for depths up to several hundred feet before they detonated. Whether they sank a sub or not they destroyed all marine life within a couple hundred yards. It was really something to see big fish boil up from the depths exploding from the bubble into the air.
The Hedgehogs were on the forward boat deck. They were so named because they were placed in a bank of three rows of five grenades each. They were a contact explosive. The grenades, much like the WWI German hand grenades in form, were like a gallon wine jug set on a stick. Placed on electric prods they blew out in a pattern a hundred feet across. If they hit anything on the way down they exploded. Woe to any passing whales.
Legend had it that a DE fired off its Port bank, then, turning under the barrage nearly had its bow blown off. But, then, that may have been only apocryphal . It hardly seems possible; but, then, the Navy had an amazing ability to foul up.
If you’ve seen old WWII movies, and who hasn’t, you’ve seen twenty millimeter guns in action. As part of modernization the twenty millimeter guns had already been removed from the Teufelsdreck. The twenties were those big shoulder harness machine guns you see in the movies where the valiant sailor appears to have two barrels poking out of his chest as he tries to bring the Jap planes down.
Thus, as you looked at the beautiful contours of this man made wonder the first gun tube was empty. Behind it was the gun tub of one of the two three inch guns. The other was on the fantail. The three inch was the last caliber fired in the open air. The next size up, the five inch, required a protective turret. The five inch also had a separate bullet and propellant. The three inch was a single shell over two feet long.
The forward mount was considered the prestige battle station. Both the Bos’n Mate Chief and the Gunner’s Mate Chief supervised its action. The First Lieutenant supervised the Chiefs. There was quite a crowd up there.
All the guns were great fun but the three inch was a sight to see. It required a rammer and four loaders in addition to the complement of overseers. The loaders took a shell out of the storage bin, cradled it in the right arm holding the base in the left hand. They ran around the tub under the barrel to hand the shell to the rammer. This prestige job was the prerogative of the leading seaman. As the gun fired, the recoil brought the breech down exposing the barrel tube. The shell was then rammed into the tube with the heel of the hand to release the breech which snapped into place with incredible force ready to fire. You had to watch your fingers.
The report of the three inch was incredibly loud and sharp. Even with ear plugs if you were passing under the barrel when it went off you were jerked off your feet flying a foot into the air, feet splayed.
In the last few months of its existence the Teufelsdreck was outfitted with automatic threes. The sound was so intolerable they couldn’t be worked. Plus they tore up the decking with their rapid recoil.
The final little bit of armament, the jewel in the lotus, was the quad forty millimeter gun mount. Ah, now there was a toy. In the movies they are the four barrels recoiling at different times in a remarkable rhythm. God loved the forties.
The sailors, those who had the capacity, always wondered why the structure above decks was called a superstructure. Super is merely the Latin, meaning above, that structure above the structure. This was the boat deck and the bridge. Altogether a very stylish ship.
Book 1, Clip 1b. Posted 6/04/12
There are three magnificent land locked seas on the West Coast; Puget Sound on the Canadian border, San Francisco Bay midway between Puget Sound and the southern terminus on the Mexican border, San Diego.
Puget Sound is home to the naval base at Bremerton. San Francisco has Mare Island near Vallejo, Hunters Point dry docks in South San Francisco, Treasure Island , an artificial fill adjacent to Yerba Buena Island and the Alameda Naval Air Base and docks next to Oakland. There is, or was, some trifling Navy at Long Beach and then you have the true home of the Pacific fleet in all the complexes of San Diego.
The Pendleton Marine Base was just north of San Diego. The West Coast boot camp was in San Diego. San Diego Bay debouches to the North between a narrow peninsula and the main land. Entering the bay North Island Naval Air is on the west side while the San Diego airport was on the east. Jets took off and landed constantly on both sides all day long.
Further up the bay on the main land were the Broadway Piers, a long row of moorings, since gone I’m sad to say. At those you would step off the ship and be in downtown San Diego at the terminus of Highway 101. These berths were given for good behavior and ostentatious purposes. Much more visually impressive was the long string of buoys in the middle of the bay.
At some were the massive Destroyer and Submarine tenders. Huge floating machine shops with dozens of lathes and other tooling equipment. They were six hundred feet long with a fifty or sixty foot beam. They sat high out of the water with many decks.
Nested next to those were four or five Destroyers or Escorts. Half a dozen submarines were along side the Sub Tenders. Strung out along the other buoys were dozens of Destroyers, Escorts and other ships of the line. Ships were coming and going at all times. The sense of power and majesty was overwhelming.
Turning East up the bay the north side was lined with Naval establishments for miles. Row after row of berths. Huge traveling cranes, gigantic buildings. The transition from 1900 when the area was virtually undefended to the present huge Navy was a remarkable transformation.
The Navy was everywhere. It is not unfair to say that at the time if there had been no Navy there would been no San Diego. San Diego belonged to the Navy.
Paradise was an armed camp.
From the Grapevine to the Border is what is known in California as the Southland. The land of Disney Girls and Playboy Bunnies; golden haired surfer boys with shaggy, shaggy hair and fantasy land movie hopefuls.
The sun never stops shining. It never gets so cold you need more than a T-shirt. So long as you’re near the water the temperature is always between seventy and eighty with a pleasant inspiring breeze that is better than any artificial stimulant. As soon as you’re away from the water you’re in an unbearably hot desert. If you’re not sensitive to heat it still isn’t bad.
The coastal areas from San Diego to LA provide the finest climate in the world. The only tragedy is that so many people realize this truth. In 1958 the population density was tolerable. There were enough people so that you were rarely alone but not so many that you felt oppressed.
This area from San Diego to Los Angeles was all Navy ground.
There has never been a time when America stood still. Change has always swept through the country like a tornado through Kansas. There has never been a time to stop, look and evaluate what was happening.
In order to deal with the cascading torrent of events America has always resorted to convenient lies. Americans became pious liars. Unpleasantness was glossed over or denied. Facts were rearranged to suit desires. An official version was given that was perilous to deviate from. But any structure based on false premises will sooner or later become top heavy and come crashing to the ground. There is no use to lie and so I won’t.
The generation coming of age had been brought up on a fabric of lies since they were born. Deceit and hypocrisy had been all they had known. They would begin a generation long revolt against hypocrisy that would be severely suppressed and punished by their elders.
The problem lay between the contrasts of the ideal and reality. We were all made to believe that our elders were inherently good and decent people. The rest of the world was corrupt but our clean, decent and honest parents were above all that.
Contrasted to that was the situation in Havana. There in Cuba a Communist named Fidel Castro was attempting to overthrow the government and expel the American influence. They wanted to oust the American criminal cartels that had taken over Havana establishing a regime of degeneracy, gambling and prostitution.
It is nearly impossible to describe the vile entertainments devised to amuse the American tourists. Dirty, foul sex acts, real degeneracy that befouled the imagination. True, we were encouraged to look down on the Cubans who provided this perverted entertainment but who were the people paying for and enjoying this filth. Our parents. Those same people who had created the purest Republic in the world.
And who were these American gangsters. Shhh. This is part of the big lie that no one of us is supposed to acknowledge. They were part of the ‘wretched refuse of Europe’s teeming shore.’ The quote comes from the plaque placed on the base of the Statue of Liberty written by the Jewish poetess, Emma Lazarus. The quote referred to the Jews arriving from Eastern Europe.
Nothing is more distorted by historians than the history of immigration. It may be appropriate to point out that this gift of the French people, the Statue of Liberty, was originally built to place at the Caribbean side of the projected French enterprise of the Panama Canal. It was to have been entitled ‘The Statue of Commerce’ in that capacity. When the Panama Canal company went bust the statue was redundant. The French, with no hint of a smirk sent it to America as the ‘Statue of Liberty’. The Jews affixed the plaque welcoming their nationals and the statue, plaque and all, became an expression of the ego of America.
When these immigrants reached American shores they blamed their defects on the United States and arrogated their virtues to themselves. The criminals operating in Havana were all Jewish and Italian. Their claim was that conditions in America made them criminals. They said there was something in the American air that bred criminality. If so this air had not influenced the English, Poles, Germans and what have you to the excesses displayed by the Jews and Italians. Not that every people doesn’t have its share of crooks but we’re talking about systematic, organized criminality in which murder forms an essential element. A concept of crime that sought legitimation for criminal behavior as just another business activity. They sought to make it just another economic activity. Thus, not only was Havana developed as a criminal and degradation center by these two nationalities but they conspired to undermine morality on American soil by spreading the blight of gambling, prostitution and degradation to Las Vegas and from thence back to New York City and its environs.
Thus, as Castro closed down Havana, Sin City in Nevada a couple hundred miles from San Diego was beginning its tremendous corrupting influence. The degradation of Havana moved north to the Big Apple.
Organized crime, the direct product of immigration, cast a pall over the world view of the generation. We were all expected to accept responsibility, guilt, for American criminality which was in reality the activity of two immigrant nationalities. At the same time we were forbidden to declare our innocence because to do so was to cast obloquy on Jews and Italians which was taboo. One’s mind churned, madness bubbled up. Do you wonder why crime has spread to be such a problem in America?
This problem was added to the race issue. No generation can be responsible for the actions of those who came before. The sins of the fathers do not belong to the children. But because previous generations had enslaved Negroes and then forced them into a Jim Crow existence, the Negroes, finally emerging from their subordination expected our generation to recompense them for what had happened to earlier generations of Negroes. It was not enough for them to be equal, they in their turn wanted to subordinate Whites.
This is not an unexpected psychological reaction. Nothing could be more normal. But because they desired it is no reason it should be done. True, it was a difficult psychological problem that they would have to be helped to get over but that was no reason to punish an innocent generation for the actions of their forefathers. Nevertheless the entire generation was brutalized for the acts of their fathers.
The brutalization was done in some interesting ways. One was the reverence for the Negro culture. America has no sense of culture so this reverence was introduced from England that does. Rock and Roll traveled from America to England where it was combined with Negro Blues music to form British Blues. This music was adopted by America and expanded into White Blues. Thus a people raised on freedom adopted the mentality of slaves through the medium of song. Real conditioning. It was a remarkable transition to watch.
The race problem was compounded by the Atom Bomb. As we all know the Atom Bomb was dropped on Japan. This fact was portrayed, never mind the Japanese attacked us first, as an act of blatant racism. Somehow the act of using the A-bomb transformed Americans into vicious aggressors. All the lost American lives were forgotten when we dropped the Big One. Some of the Japanese survivors were brought to the US for medical treatment as though they had been innocent victims. It was forbidden to celebrate our victory over Japan. Our victory was portrayed as a regrettable act of racism.
Combined with the A-bomb had been the removal of the Japanese in the Western Defense Command of the US to detention camps. Anyone who has studied the issue knows that this was warranted. But it was portrayed as another example of White bigotry. Another load of guilt for White boys.
At one and same time we were expected to be perfect Americans who had brought to the world the only light it has ever seen while having perpetrated the only crimes the world has ever known. The attitude would be epitomized a few years later by the Jewish writer Eugene Burdick in his novel ‘The Ugly American.’ Mr. Burdick assured us that although we were giving away millions of tons of food the natives despised us because we misunderstood the spirit of giving. Having been softened up for years Americans went for the image hook, line and sinker.
Also savaging our minds was the great social revolution being led by the Communists. Publishing is controlled by the Reds then as now so criticism of the Revolution has always been discountenanced. Never mind the savage repression of liberty in Russia, we were told it couldn’t happen here.
Well, there were many of us who did think it could happen here so we fought valiantly to make sure it wouldn’t. From 1917 to 1954 the war was waged in open terms. The last wave of resistance went down to defeat in 1954 when Joe McCarthy failed us all. He did manage to take the old Red apparatus down with him. So in the period of 1957-59 the New Left was regrouping, forming a coalition that would be known as Political Correctness but it was only the Revolution having adapted to American ways. They just changed the name from Communism to Political Correctness.
There was the amazing hedonism of Hugh Heffner and Playboy to be dealt with; the silliness but social destructiveness of Walt Disney who was now to so profoundly alter American consciousness. Everyone was about to become a Disney boy or girl,
All these psychological challenges ripped the minds of the young. All required decisions to be made. Is it any wonder that America turned to drugs. Unsure of who they were or what was right or wrong or what was expected of them the young of America turned to popping pills for relief.
Drugs were not a problem that developed in the late sixties Drugs were a problem that became obvious in the late sixties; that is to say the problem couldn’t be denied any longer. The problem developed in the late forties and through the fifties. The chief problem was not marijuana, cocaine or Heroin. The chief problem was the endless supply of pills turned out by the American pharmaceutical industry. Uppers and downers were and always had been America’s drug problem.
By 1957-59 drugs were endemic in the Navy.
These were the major problems we all wrestled with at the time. Some didn’t wrestle, some gave in and ‘went with the flow.’ But some of us wrestled. We were called social misfits.
The Man- Dewey Trueman
A man expresses the truths and myths that he holds of himself in the ephemera of his life. It is by way of songs, the snatches of poetry, street doggerel, sayings, movies, TV shows, novels and stories, slogans and folk images that a man characterizes himself to himself. It is through the archetypes of song and legend that he fits himself into the scheme of things. Having adopted a persona a man usually lives up to it. America has always been the home of the ‘Ramblin’ gambling’ , man.’
For many men that is the only self-respecting role they can find for themselves. ‘The Roving Gambler.’
I am a Roving Gambler,
I’ve gambled all around,
I’ve gambled out in Washington,
I’ve gambled over in Spain,
Now I’m on my way to Georgia
To knock down my last game.
The Roving Gambler archetype formed a substratum in Dewey’s psyche. The self-destructiveness of the role was such that Dewey had to fight to suppress it or transform the image into something manageable.
The main image by which he perceived himself was found in another old American folk song titled ‘Nobody’s Child.’ The song quite literally encapsulated a phase of his life, a phase that formed his identity. The child of the song is an orphan. One verse was identical to a situation of Dewey’s:
Oh yeah, they say they like my
Curls of gold.
Oh yeah, and they like my
Eyes of blue.
But they always take
Some other child,
And I’m left here
Book I, Clip 1c, posted 6/05/12
Dewey, too, had been in the orphanage. He had had hair of gold and eyes of blue but those qualities which society says it admires so much were a curse rather than a blessing. Rather than joy they brought him pain and sorrow. He was, also ‘A Man Of Constant Sorrow’. Rather than a reason for acceptance they became a cause of rejection.
This image which was to stay with him for decades was also as negative and self-defeating as that of the Roving Gambler. Dewey had a lot of psychological detritus to remove.
When he left the orphanage it was to spend eight years in an insane home environment. Dewey had been what is known as a good boy. He had always been honest and obedient. These qualities known by society as virtues brought him only scorn and revilement.
Unappreciated at home and relentlessly persecuted at school because of self-assertion against the ruling clique in kindergarten, Dewey had had his self-confidence slowly crushed out of him.
But as the husk is intact the man lives on; he cannot die or levitate himself to a better existence. By the time Dewey had been driven from his home town he had nothing to keep himself on his feet but inertia. Except for the fact that life says: ‘Keep on, keep on, keep on moving.’ Dewey would have been a shapeless heap of rubble by the roadside. His identity had been compressed into a dot no bigger than the period at the end of this sentence.
What we see sitting on his seabag at the head of the pier then is a man faced with the daunting task of remaking himself from less than nothing into something which he can admire and respect. The dot will have to decompress itself in such a subtle way that like one of those tiny sponges contained in a capsule it will expand into a complete entity.
Dewey will not complete the transformation in this volume. This volume is only the beginning of the rebirth of Dewey Trueman.
Permission To Come On Board
Dewey Trueman sat on his seabag eyeing the Teufelsdreck. His advice had been good. It was a wise thing to take the measure of your new assignment. Dewey was inexperienced. He had no way to evaluate the ship. This was the first one he had ever seen.
What he did see was not very promising. The Teufelsdreck had just returned from an Asian tour of duty. The ship, even to an inexperienced eye, looked like a wreck. The ship was dirty, paint was peeling, even the numbers were disfigured, the men were loose and unkempt. The ship appeared to be devoid of discipline.
“How am I supposed to fit into that?’ Dewey thought with a sinking feeling.
As he sat watching he too was being observed. Lt. Bifrons Morford stood leaning on the railing of the boat deck talking to his Yeoman, Teal Kanary. Both were new to the 666. Indeed half the old crew was being transferred. Dewey was one of seventy new faces coming aboard.
‘What’s wrong with him?’ Morford asked idly, unaware of Dewey’s good advice. Good advice often seems ignorant to uninformed minds.
‘Must be afraid to come on board.’ Kanary joked.
‘Well, then he’s not totally lacking in good sense.’ Morford jibed back.
As Dewey sat and Morford and Kanary joked a number of seamen were wending their way across the Naval Station in search of the Teufelsdreck. Just then a bright eager face hove into Dewey’s view.
‘Hi! Are you going aboard the Teufelsdreck?’ He cheerfully asked Dewey.
‘Uh, yeah, I am. You?’ Oh yeah? My name’s Dewey Trueman.’
‘Hi, Dewey. I’m Dennis La Frenniere. I’m going to be on the Deck Force.’ He said with evident pride that betrayed his ignorance of what that meant.
‘Yeah, me too.’ Dewey replied as another sailor named Don Tidwell showed up to join the party. They were joined by others swelling the party to seven.
Soon they were all joking and laughing. You couldn’t find seven merrier guys. They were such a jolly group and so pleased with each other that each figured fate had done them a neat turn. Laughing and shouting they moved down the pier past the peeling numbers of the 666 by Bifrons Morford and Teal Kanary to the gangway across which was the quarterdeck of the USS Teufelsdreck, DE 666.
It would have been better had Dewey ignored his good advice and gone on board alone. He would have slipped aboard more inconspicuously. But now this shouting laughing mass of recruits only aroused the antipathy of the ‘old hands.’ Many of them were only awaiting replacements so they vented the frustrations of their long Asian tour on the new men. There was nothing serious but it set a tone among the new men that was to last.
Morford, who was Officer Of The Day, came down from the boat deck to examine them more closely. Jack Cornford who was the Petty Officer Of The Watch collected the papers and directed the recruits, who were all deck hands, to First Division quarters.
‘Welcome aboard. Capt. Descartes is only to happy to have you. I’m sure we’ll all get used to you too.’
Cornford pronounced the name Dess Cartes. Blaise Descartes had been captain for fourteen months but the crew still didn’t know how to pronounce his name. Unfortunately for Dewey he did.
There was a little sign hanging on the bulkhead that announced that the Teufelsdreck was under the command of Blaise Descartes.
‘Does he pronounce the name Dess Cartes or Day Cartes?’ Dewey asked giving the name the French pronunciation and the same that Descartes himself used.
Cornford tapped the sign. ‘Read it, Sailor, if you can, that is. DESCARTES, Dess Cartes.’ Cornford looked at Trueman sharply thinking him completely stupid.
‘Yeah, but in French that’s pronounced Day Cartes. Like the philosopher Rene Des Cartes.’ Dewey said apologetically.
‘Uh huh. Well, in case you ain’t noticed this ain’t France. These here are the United States Of America. You are aboard the USS Teufelsdreck, DE 666. It’s pronounced Dess Cartes.’
‘Oh yeah? What did they do, suspend the law of gravity on the Teufelsdreck as well as the rules of pronunciation?’ Dewey tried to joke while maintaining his position.
Cornford wasn’t having any of it. ‘You got a…what’s your name? Trueman, uh huh…you got a college education there Mr. Trueman? No? Well then you’re just like us so don’t get smart with me. Alright now, Sailors, go back to the fantail, Back there in that direction there’s an open hatch, go down the ladder there and you’re in the First Division. Take this wiseguy Trueman with you too. Savvy him up a little.’
The incident was trivial enough. It could have been righted quite easily by someone with a little social sense. Dewey didn’t have social sense so he inflated it to mega proportions. He thought he was ruined. All his fears and anxieties coalesced around this incident to form a giant core of resentment in his mind. He developed a bad attitude that he was never to lose.
The next few days of transition into the society of the ship was extremely difficult both for Trueman and the rest of the new men. The cheerful laughing group of men who had requested permission to board the Teufelsdreck in a spirit of high adventure would all sour in one form or another. The spirit of the new men was converted to a seething, sullen mood of rebellion.
Once below deck the new men were subjected to the hazing of the old crew. Simple requestd for information were treated as occasions for abuse. The simple act of locating a vacant bunk was turned into excruciating torture that lasted for over an hour.
Dewey finally obtained an upper bunk on the inboard side of the starboard hatch. Even that cost him a certain diminution of respect. The bottom bunk in the row had been available. Most sailors prefer the bottom bunk but Dewey wanted the top bunk.
‘That bottom bunk’s taken, sailor.’ Some voice commanded even though the bunk was made up as empty.
‘I don’t want it anyway, I want the top bunk.’ Dewey replied as civilly as he could to the bestial snarlings.
‘I said you can’t have the bottom bunk.’ Was offered as a non-sequitur.
‘You’ve got it big fella. I don’t want it. Keep it.’ Dewey replied firmly.
Probably Dewey should have replied with a blunt: Because this is what I want. Socially the Navy is only a step up from prison. If this had been prison the sailors would probably have resolved the situation by making him fight or go under but prison rules were modified to a more orderly method in the Navy; fighting was not allowed. As usual nonetheless Dewey made the mistake of being civil. Civility in American society, as has been often remarked is interpreted as weakness. Real men eat raw meat and spit it in your face.
‘If you’re on the bottom you always have to get up to let people use their lockers; if you’re in the middle you’ve got someone above and below, if you’re on top you’re above everyone.’ Then Dewey threw in: ‘Is that simple enough for you?’ just to show he was tough.
The old hands interpreted the remark as disdain which they resented rather than toughness. Dewey’s English was also too good for them. They didn’t want anyone putting on airs making them think they were inferior. They wanted you down in the hole where they were.
‘Above it all, huh? Up there is where the fart smells go. Haw, haw, haw.’
‘Aw, Christ this going to be fun.’ All seven new men thought as they lifted the lids to the lockers to stow their gear.
Dewey stood up from time to time in disgust. A sailor’s personal space aboard ship was a three by three square two feet deep. Everything you owned had to be stashed in there. Of course every time you moved all your possessions had to fit into your seabag. A seabag over fifty pounds was a real burden so it behooved you to stay light. As Dewey would find there was more than room enough.
As he stood contemplating his gear he looked around to orient himself. There were six tiers of bunks stretched across the compartment. Each tier was three bunks doubled end to end. All told there were about sixty bunks in First Division with those located in nooks and crannies included. The lockers were beneath each tier. There was a hatch on each side leading forward through the Engineering compartment and another aft leading to after steering and the barber shop.
First Division was composed of the Deck Force, Gunner’s Mates and Sonarmen. In the hierarchy of intelligence Deck was at the bottom. The Gunner’s Mates next to the bottom preferred to look down on the Deck Apes.
In the old Navy this might have been true but every man coming aboard was a Reservist. They raised the tone of the whole Navy let alone the Deck Force. In the rapid fire banter going around Dewey quickly picked up the drift of things. Not only was his English better but he had a sharp mind with a well honed edge.
After settling in and having a dinner of rudely cooked and evil tasting food Dewey climbed into his bunk. If he couldn’t organize his new reality in a day perhaps he could shut it out by a trip to dreamland.
Six o’ clock reveille and the routine began. Dewey once again was revolted. He grabbed his douche bag to go up and wash. What a sight. There were nine wash basins for over a hundred men. Since about ten men never washed the ration was actually a little better.
The place was jammed with men fighting for basins so Dewey decided to eat first.
The mess hall was forward underneath the bridge superstructure. Dewey got in the line which extended up the ladder and out on the deck.
‘Better get used to it buddy, this is the way it is.’ A resigned friendly voice said noticing Dewey’s impatience and irritation.
Dewey turned to look at the voice.
‘Hi. I’m Kerry Maclen, Sonarman. I just came aboard eight days ago when this bucket got back from Wespac. I haven’t been here much longer than you but I’ve got some things figured out. One of ‘ems it doesn’t get any better than this.’
Dewey calmed down and began chatting with Maclen as the line moved slowly forward through the hatch, then standing on the steps of the ladder. Finally grabbing a tray, mug and silverware he started moving down the line accumulating a tray full of what passed for food.
The stuff looked bad and tasted worse. Prison fare was probably better. Dewey looked at the tray as he realized that he wouldn’t be gaining any weight aboard the Teufelsdreck. He couldn’t eat that ‘chow.’ At least the Teufelsdreck had the sense not to refer to the crap as food. He couldn’t even stand to look at the ‘chow.’
In desperation he grabbed four slices of bread, looked for mold and checked to see whether the spread was butter or oleo. Thankfully the Navy thought enough of the men to provide real butter. As they were not so thoughtful as to provide jam Dewey carefully spread a thin layer of mustard over the butter. This was to be his breakfast for the next three months until he had a reaction to the mustard.
Our Lady Of The Blues Book I, clip 1d, posted 6/06/12
‘Quite a breakfast.’ A voice seated next to him commented.
‘You don’t expect me to eat that garbage, do you?’ Dewey replied contemptuously.
‘Plenty good enough for me.’ The other gruffed stuffing his face.
‘I guess I haven’t been deprived of food long enough like you.’ Dewey said popping the last piece of bread, butter and mustard into his mouth as he got up to go wash up.
As he threw his douche bag on the ledge above one of the sinks and thrust his face into the mirror the half-crazed demon possessed reflection that stared back at him made him realize that he had made the mistake of his life. Not that he hadn’t realized it much earlier. Not that he hadn’t had misgivings when he stood in line with fifty other suckers to be sworn in. Also it wasn’t that the Navy didn’t realize that every sucker in line would repent of his oath.
The Navy had experience, and how. They knew all the objections; they countered all the arguments. The Navy knew who they were dealing with too; they weren’t delicate.
‘If you show up later and say you didn’t move your lips, forget it. There is no mental evasion or reservations that will do you any good, It’s all been tried before. It won’t work, you’re all sworn in.’
How Dewey resented the fact that he hadn’t stepped out of line and left before the oath was administered. As he thought back he was sure that he hadn’t raised his right hand but there was no way to prove that now nor would it matter if he could. He was in.
He knew he had made a mistake when he had obediently bent over and spread his cheeks so the Navy MD could study the fine sight of his asshole.
God, what a spiffy job; spend your whole life walking down lines of buttocks deciding on that basis whether a man could be a sailor or not. There were a couple of men excused from service on the basis of failing the asshole test. Even then the Navy doctor was so stupid he passed three out of ten he shouldn’t have. Thirty per cent of the guys aboard were queers.
Dewey heaved a sigh, oh, lord, he didn’t heave a sigh, the life’s breath fled out of him but he couldn’t die; he was in the Navy. In? In big. His wild staring eyes studied the reflection that he would see for the duration. His sink was the middle one on the left bulkhead. Three sinks aft, five sinks port bulkhead, three sinks forward bulkhead. The smell of over a hundred men assailed his nostrils. Over a hundred had been there before him this morning as they would every morning for the duration. The stench of a hundred urinating, shitting, stinking men. Four pissoirs, four stools, four showers, eleven sinks. Dewey dry retched into the sink. Jesus Christ! What had he done? The only thing worse could be prison.
Having sworn in had been bad enough but then being a Reserve and having already completed boot camp between eleventh and twelfth grades, the Navy had sent him to the Receiving Station at Philadelphia. Lor’ what an education that had been. Already better than half crazed by his home environment he had blown through the bottom; under every seeming basement there is yet another depth. He had blown through the bottom of the bottom; hell, he had found new depths that had never been explored.
Every new man at the Receiving Station had responded to that new and hostile environment better than he had. Dewey had entered a limbo that it is surprising that he survived. A reality he had never suspected became an unavoidable apparition of disgust.
Caught somewhere between a free life and a prison environment Dewey had not known how to respond. The homosexual threat was rampant. Unprepared to respond to such open aggression on the part of homosexuals Dewey had responded by only showering rarely and then only at times when the showers were unused. Even then gayboys showed up to check the action, stand and inspect his dick. His timidity hadn’t gone unnoticed. Always preying on the ignorant and timid he had been assailed in the showers and had had to fight his way out rather than submit.
As he looked over at the shower stalls on the starboard side an involuntary shudder went down his spine. Three more fucking years of this shit! He thought.
The criminal degradation of the Receiving Station had truly blown his mind. The thievery was incessant. The cons and cheating were all the time. Drug addiction! Dewey had never seen it before. Then, at muster they lugged a First Class out on a stretcher. He was ‘sick.’ He was suffering from a heroin overdose. As they carried this son-of-a-bitch past Dewey the bastard shot out a projectile of vomit all over him. The horror of it was more than Dewey could stand. He brought both fists down on that sick degenerate bastard’s stomach, knocking one of the bearers aside and spilling that idiot First Class out on the pavement. Dewey moved in to stomp that ignorant bastard to death but was quickly restrained by a couple sailors who got some of that diseased puke all over themselves. Several hours passed before Dewey regained a semblance of composure.
‘Jesus,’ he thought, ‘What is this? What is this? Is there no refuge?’
In truth there wasn’t, neither on the base or ashore. Who knows who they were but everywhere he went it seemed he was being followed. The Navy was on tight security because of the Cold War, but was it necessary to follow a sailor when he wandered down to look at the mothballed Cruisers or was it just some queers on the make.
It seemed like everybody was out to tear every other body apart in one way or another. Every way he turned faggots were waiting to batten on him.
Standing in the subway one night at one in the morning he looked across the tracks to the top tier of that multi-tiered structure to see some faggot staring at him as the queer masturbated at his sight. ‘My god,’ he thought, ‘Don’t these guys have any self-respect.’ If the truth were told, no they don’t.
Another night he was walking down Broad to the base, avoiding the subway, when a worker type pulled up offered him a ride back to the base as he was going that way himself. Naively Dewey believed him. Seething with anger Dewey had finished his walk back to the base after having repulsed the queer’s advances. Back at the base the Marine sentry was giving him a bad time mistaking what Dewey thought was politeness for timidity.
The face looking back at Dewey reflected the horror of all these incomprehensibilities. He had been assigned West. Somewhere between Philly and San Francisco or, perhaps, after his visit to the Navy dentist, he had toughened up, put on a hard face, a mean face, a face that said: ‘Up yours.’
The dentist had been a lunatic, a madman. He did more damage to Dewey’s mouth in an hour than the A-bomb had done to Hiroshima. Dewey learned his lesson; he never visited another Navy dentist or doctor during his enlistment. He’d rather pay for good attention than be mutilated for free.
Dewey looked in the mirror again and found that he was panting.
“Yeah, I don’t like it either.’ Came from a voice from across the area. ‘Nobody does. But there’s nothing we can do about it now.’
Dewey focused on the present to see a sailor fourth sink, port bulkhead shaving and watching him mirror to mirror. Shaving! Aaaargh. Dewey let out a long anguished mental scream that still seemed to emit from the face in the mirror. Shaving! Shaving was a private act. It was between you and the mirror. Only faggots watched other men shave. Guys invited hopeful conquests into the head to watch them shave. Bulls showed off for catamites in that way. Now, here was some guy speaking to him while he shaved.
‘Yeah, this is pretty hard to get used to.’ Dewey replied rather than get a reputation for being difficult but still hoping not to encourage further conversation. Fortunately the other guy was finishing up, it was getting close to muster and he left with a hurried: ‘Keep it together.’
‘Keep it together?’ Dewey was already blown apart. He would have to bring it together. He not only had to organize and overcome his childhood traumas he would have to survive this new madness.
Still, there was no way out but deeper in. He would have to go out the other side. He threw his douche bag- douche bag- Jesus Christ- into his locker, squared his hat, passed through the Engineering compartment to climb the ladder to the main deck, stepped through the starboard hatch into the light to see the men of First Division lining up for muster.
The line that separated Dewey from insanity was the physical world. Having stepped from the encasing steel of the ship, the delightful climate of waterfront San Diego embraced him. The strong sun enveloped him. The fresh invigorating sea breeze wafted around him wrapping him in sensual delight.
Then his eyes fell on Chief Dieter, First Class Gunner’s Mate Emmanuel Ratman, and First Class Bos’n’s Mate Blaise Pardon. They were eyeing him with idle curiosity as the last arrival. In his state of mind he took it as hostility and snarled back.
Muster! He saw two lines of sailors standing at parade rest. He walked down to the end of the line and took a place.
‘You’re Deck, right? Back down in this group.’
Dewey noticed there had been a break in the line. He had apparently lined up with the second group- the Gunner’s Mates. He moved back down the line to the other end to take a position in the back rank. He extended the line by one person.
‘Step forward to the front rank. Looks better.’
Dewey stepped forward, but his teeth ground. He knew he had to obey the order but as he looked at the three Petty Officers he felt innately superior to them. He was. Ratman, the Gunner’s Mate, was an illiterate stupido. He was even incapable of reading the muster. How he had ever been able to pass the written tests to become a First Class was open to conjecture. The Navy takes care of its own. They probably read the questions to him pointing to which box to mark after he gave the his answer. That he had been in eighteen years and hadn’t made chief told against him.
Ratman had a brownish open pored complexion and eyes that betrayed neither intelligence nor stupidity. They were just kind of blank and unseeing. Nothing seemed to register. He had the habit of holding his mouth open and flicking his tongue up and down, projecting it in and out. Rats might not have the same characteristics but the habit seemed to fit his name.
Blaise Pardon, the First Class Bos’n’s Mate, was a decent sort. He was only interested in getting through the day with the least conflict possible. That was a positive virtue. He was another eighteen year man but Deck was a closed rating, the fact did not count against him. It was nearly impossible to advance your rating in Deck.
As the rating was the least demanding in the Navy and as it was much more secure than trying to earn a living on the outside more career men were in Deck than anywhere else. Even the Gunner’s Mates was relatively open compared to Deck. You were guaranteed to make Chief in twenty. Even a mutant like Ratman would be given his Chief’s outfit as a gift on his way out. Maybe he even deserved it, who knows?
All of the ratings that required intelligence were wide open. To take Electronics Technicians as an example. A man could easily make First Class within a four year enlistment. This was actually too fast on a cultural basis. There were cases of ETs making Chief within four years. This was absolutely destructive to Navy morale. There may have been no question that the man had learned his rating that well; however he had not absorbed Navy culture to any extent. He was not yet Navy. He had no investment in the tradition, no esprit de corps, no veneration for the career. Most of them became ego maniacs destroyed by their rapid advancement.
Angus Dieter, the Chief Bos’n’s Mate was everything a career Navy man should be. He had been in seventeen years. He wore his uniform with all the assurance and aplomb of a man born to the station. He was overweight but by just the right amount. His bulk was actually magnificent in his dress blues and in his khakis, which he wore during work hours. He certainly distinguished his uniform. Even his hat seemed as though it had been molded expressly for his head.
As the guns of the Teufelsdreck didn’t warrant a Chief Gunner’s Mate Dieter was Chief for the entire First Division, which he relished. It gave him additional importance which he wore well. He was especially resplendent in the golden sunshine and the soft caressing uplifting air. Dewey still didn’t like the way Dieter had commanded him to step forward. The war was on.
After the names had been called and all found present the day’s tasks were assigned. The two Sonarmen, Maclen and Hubie Blake, left for the Sonar shack below the Mess Hall. The old hands were sent off to their tasks. The seven new men were taken on an orientation tour by Pardon. This would ordinarily have been done by the Second Class, Norm Castrato, but he had gone to sick bay that morning along with the Second Class Gunner’s Mate Lion Ratfield.
Before the tour Dieter delivered a talk about nomenclature. Nomenclature is, of course, important but perhaps Dieter in his attempt to establish his authority was a bit overdone. The seven reservists had all been developing hostile reactions since they had first stepped aboard. Everything about shipboard life repelled them. They would all display their repulsion in different ways but a little wave of revulsion greeted Dieter’s speech.
‘Now, I know you boys come from soft family backgrounds where you’re used to having your own way. Well, you’re in the Navy now. There’s only one way in the Navy and that’s the Navy way, no ifs ands or buts. Screw with us and you’ll never see the highway again. If you don’t want to do it our way there ain’t no way you’re going to enjoy your sojourn among us. Do I make myself clear? Alright.
Now, in the Navy all the things have different names than in civilian life- learn them or else. For instance your are not standing on the floor- you are standing on a deck. That why you are called Deck Hands. That behind you is not a wall, that is a bulkhead. There are no walls aboard ship, only bulkheads.
That thing with steps you see there attached to the bulkhead is not a staircase, it is a ladder. That thing on the fantail leading below- not downstairs- below- is also a ladder even though you might think it looks more like stairs than a ladder. The opening in the bulkheads you go through are called hatches. All such openings are hatches whether as in the officer’s quarters they look like doors or not. You do not go to the toilet or washroom you go to the head. On that note, I’ll leave you where you belong, in the head. Ha ha ha. Pardon will show you around the ship. By the way, you may call me Dieter or Chief or Chief Dieter at your discretion. Do not call me Sir, Angus or Hey You. I am not an officer and first names do not exist in the Navy.’
Our Lady Of The Blues Book I, clip 1e posted 6/07/12
‘Also call you asshole‘ seemed to arise from the seven but I doubt if a tape recorder would have picked it up.
Pardon then took them in hand and conducted them on a tour of the ship in much the same manner as you were introduced to it in the prologue with the addition of details that will appear later. This tour destroyed any illusions the seven may have had.
Dennis LaFrenniere, who was from Tempe, Arizona was taken back. His illusions about a big adventure had been completely destroyed There was an unforgiving brutal reality about the day that bore him down.
‘What did you think of it, monsieur?’ He civilly asked Dewey. Trueman had taken to Dennis immediately and like what appeared to be a carefree devil may care attitude. He was surprised by the somber depressed manner of the question.
Dewey was unaware of the edge the day had given to his own attitude. He was resentful and agitated as Dennis was somber and depressed. He realized only too well that, as Dieter had said, it was the Navy way or no way. Trueman’s teeth were on edge. The Navy would have to give to get what he had to offer.
‘I don’t think this is going to be any fun at all, Dennis, but we’ve got to get through it.’
LaFrenniere turned his troubled distraught eyes to the deck. He couldn’t face it as himself. A future of days like today was quite beyond his mind to handle as himself. A film closed over his mind as he began to leave Dennis LaFrenniere aside and assume the identity of- Frenchy.
For the rest of his tour he would answer only to the name of Frenchy. He would retreat into that identity and not come out until he was discharged and safely back in Tempe. He became temporarily insane.
Dewey passed Don Tidwell coming back from evening chow but Tidwell’s gloomy withdrawn lips passed by without a word. Tidwell, too, had taken a dim view of Navy life. He was from Phoenix, Arizona. Like Trueman and LaFrenniere he had a high score on the General Intelligence Test. He took his score more seriously than he should have. He had come from a literate family too, thus feeling himself above, not only everyone in First but everyone on ship. He retreated within himself into a blue funk from which he would never emerge until he took his discharge papers in hand. Even then his life’s outlook had been altered for good.
Dewey sat in mess hall looking at what it pleased the Navy to call food on his tray. He couldn’t eat it.
‘Whatsa’ matter? This is pretty good chow.’ The man next to him said, looking at him curiously.
‘Oh god, this stuff is garbage.’ Dewey said in disgust.
‘I’ve eaten a lot worse, I can tell you, when I could get it.’
‘No kidding?’’ Dewey replied incredulously.
‘You can bet on it. I’ve gone without supper many a time. When you’ve done that, you’ll eat anything.’
‘Hmm. Well, I haven’t ever done that and if I had it wouldn’t make any difference to me.’ Dewey said, picking up his tray and shoving it through the opening into the scullery fully loaded on his way back to Deck.
Passing out of the port hatch he had to step around the cook who was blocking his way. Bocuse was a First Class Cook, that is his rating was First Class. He was slovenly, unshaven, dirty and fat. He was an alcoholic who was never sober. He was dirty minded, mean, lowdown and hateful. He could cook better than he did but he was venting his ill-will toward humanity on the crew of the Teufelsdreck. He was inventing a new cuisine; he was turning edible food into garbage.
‘In your way?’ He snarled at Dewey.
‘You the chef?’ Dewey replied, noticing his dirty apron.
‘I’m the cook, Navy doesn’t have chefs.’ Bocuse snarled.
‘I stand corrected.’ Dewey snarled back.
Bocuse didn’t get the insult until breakfast next morning when with he start he flipped an egg off the overhead.
‘Gonna do something about that son-of-a-bitch.’ Dewey thought as he entered the compartment.
The horrors of showering in Philly he hoped were behind him. Dewey, as well as the other new men, was a modest fellow. None of them saw any reason for walking around in the nude. Hence Brant Crowson and Dant Ralston and Dewey went up to the showers together. Crowson and Ralston were from Memphis. They all put on their shoes leaving their undershorts on, carrying their soaps and towels.
As usual they were greeted by a long line. As they took their places at the end they were greeted by sniggers and hoots.
‘What now?’ Ralston asked, resentful of being in the ‘wrong’ again.
‘Oh god, I don’t know.’ Trueman grimaced, waiting for the news.
‘Well, what have we here. Three prima donnas?’ Came a voice from up ahead somewhere.
Dewey. Brant and Dant looked at each other unwilling to ask the obvious question.
After a repeat of the taunt and a pause Dewey turned to the man in front of him asking quietly hoping for a quiet answer: ‘What’s happening, man?’
The man was considerate: ‘It’s your undershorts. Look around. Everyone’s nude.’
‘Yeah…but…so what? Does this mean we all have to do it?
‘Well, it’s the way things are done. See? You have to go with the flow.’
Dewey turned to Brant and Dant: ‘Uh, none of these guys has underwear on. I guess we aren’t supposed to either?’
‘’Cause that’s the way they want it, I guess. We’re supposed to ‘go with the flow.’
The three of them returned to their compartment and took off their shorts. Still unwilling to let it all hang out they independently adopted the same expedient; they wrapped their towels around them.
Trooping back to the end of the line they were greeted by the same voice: ‘What do we have here now; three girls in skirts?’
They bowed to the inevitable removing their towels to stand immodestly displaying their wares for those who were most interesting in seeing.
‘How do you keep from getting athletes foot standing in those dirty showers?’ Brant asked.
The next guy in line offered the suggestion: ‘Well, you see, you get a pair of these thongs…’ He said holding up his foot for the three to see. ‘…and then you don’t take them off. You shower with them on.’
‘Oh yeah? Where do you get those?’
‘You can buy a pair at the ship’s store tomorrow.’
‘Yeh. Where’s the ship’s store?’
‘It’s the compartment right ahead of the showers. The door opens on the passageway on the other side of the hatch.’
‘Yeah. Good prices. Cigarettes and candy are cheap. No taxes. They only have essentials.’
‘Oh, thanks man, we appreciate it.’
The new men inched up the line. As their turn came up the voice grabbed a shower stall to check out their ‘hardware’ as he called it. The voice was Paul Duber. He was more or less openly known as a queer. He was of a certainty, but in Navy etiquette unless you openly chose to be a queer, in which case you would be discharged, no one would dare to openly challenge you. Duber was the least discreet of all the queers aboard. He acted manly but did his best to let you know he was available. He was actually criminal in his desire. He drew a very thin line between seduction and rape. He was the leader of the homosexual contingent that set the tone of the ship.
The first men into the showers in the evening turned the showers on. They ran continuously until the last man left. Thus, as you entered you only checked the temperature to make sure your predecessor hadn’t left you a scalding joke. A good share of the men were vicious and delighted in hurting others.
The four stalls were arranged in pairs opposite each other. Duber grabbed the rear forward stall so as better to ogle the new men. There is nothing so exciting to a queer than a dick. They study each one as a rare work of art.
‘Don’t drop your soap, honey, I might not be able to control myself.’ He snickered from his corner. He jested but his jest carried an actual threat. There was no disguising his meaning.
‘If you want my bar, here it is. Jam this up your ass.’ Brant said insolently.
Duber was delighted.
‘O, he he. A guy with a sense of humor. I like that. How about you two too.’
‘Here’s my bar, too.’ Dant said.
‘Awright. How about you?’ Duber said leering at Trueman.
‘Go sit on an anchor fluke.’ Dewey replied with overflowing disgust.
‘Say, what’s wrong with your friend here. Talks like a real tough hard ass.’
Dewey who was wasting no time gave himself a final rinse and stepped out of the shower without another word.
‘Goddamn those queers.’ He muttered beneath his breath slipping into his shoes, grabbing his towel, stalking off drying as he went.
Memories of Philadelphia flooded his mind causing indescribable pain to him. Maybe others had greater facility in going with the flow but in Dewey’s darkened psyche the queers presented an insurmountable problem.
His mind was in angry agitation as he self-consciously pulled on his shorts feeling the other men’s eyes on his ass.
‘Say, I’d be a little more careful bending over like that in front of us. You might get a surprise. ‘Course you’d probably like it.’ One of the old hands said hopefully.
‘Pretty skinny little ass.’ Came with a laugh.
‘Kiss it.’ Dewey snapped.
‘Ooh, hoo hoo.’ Came back with jeers and guffaws.
Dewey angrily hauled himself into his upper bunk, pulled his blanket over his head and turned his back on the others cursing them under his breath. He wasn’t good at mental adjustment. The Navy life was going to take some real mental adjustment. Dewey could have made it a lot easier on himself with a more pliant attitude. None this had to be so serious. But, locked in the cage of his experience Dewey was quite incapable of moving out of himself a little to adapt to these new challenges. His response were definitely inadequate.
As in all unstable social situation the lowest elements of society were able to grab a disproportionate share in shaping the morality of shipboard life. Creating the flow, as it were.
To an experienced hand the process was simple. You had to oppose the lower morality and impose your own higher morality. This was not as simple as it seemed. But by your level of opposition you at least prevented an actual criminal environment from developing.
The same thing happened in high society as well as in low society. The Teufelsdreck was definitely low society. Let me quote- or, actually reproduce in its entirely- a little book by one Samuel N. Ordway, Harvard Class of ‘21 entitled ‘Little Codfish Cabot At Harvard.’ Ordway at least liked his environment while few except the lowest liked the Teufelsdreck but the process of shaping the mind to the new environment is the same.
Little Codfish Cabot was born into the precincts of the Harvard Yard. His father was a Cabot and his mother was a Cod. The fish part is generic.
While still very young he was sent to a New England Church School but not before he had been soaked with atmosphere- which left him a little fuzzy because he was so young.
At boarding school he learned to weather teasing- and to fight- and not to be shocked by naughty stories and swearwords- and to be a man- and to play baseball. The boys all called him Cod and he had to go to Chapel twice every day.
But he did not learn anything.
So he had to go to the Widow’s where he was crammed through the examinations and practiced living in the way he had learned at school life should be lived- when you get the chance.
Thus Codfish Cabot became a Freshman at Harvard. His class was welcomed at Phillips Brooks House by Dean Briggs who spoke on ‘College Life.’
He persuaded his father to give him an automobile in which he drove chippies riding on the river bank; and, when he grew tired of that, to Revere Beach.
Once or twice he went to a Friday Evening.
He bought Rabelais and Boccaccio, and two weeks later paid thirty dollars for James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’. It was a bargain.
He went with a Sophomore whom he met in English to a Copey’s Monday Evening. Later, he took the Freshman from Passaic who lived across the hall.
He shot on the Freshman Rifle Team because he like to be considered an outdoorsman- and made the business board of the Red Book by getting ads from his father.
He took Miss Holland Saltontail to the Freshman Jubilee and because he told her that Boston Society must not show itself inferior to New York they both got drunk. It was Miss Saltontail’s first experience.
Cod was no cad, and in his Sophomore year they elected him to the Dickey. After stripping him to the waist and running him through the mill they slid him into a tank of water and asked him if he was moral.
When he said he was, they ducked him for a liar.
Not because he wasn’t a cad, but because he was a Cod they elected him to the Porcellian.
Thereafter he got on probation and lived like a normal Harvard student.
His father gave him some more ads, and by receiving two permanent full pages, he became an editor of the Lampoon.
They made him lean out of the window on the corner of Plimpton Street and the Gold Coast at midnight and yell ‘Help, help, help, – don’t shoot- I’ll marry the woman!’ (That is what you have to do when you make the Lampoon. It is perfectly proper.)
Because he also made the Phoenix, and the Stylus, and the Hasty Pudding, and the Liberal Club- the last to show he was democratic and an independent thinker- his father had to double his allowance to pay dues.
He went to all the mass meetings and smokers- and always lent his voice in the defeat of the Eli.
He ceased going to Brattle Hall dances.
He learned to refrain from donning his hat prematurely in English 2.
After three and a half years, he had attended one of Prexy Lowell’s teas, – and had eaten once at Memorial Hall,- when he decided to leave Harvard and go into business. (After going to chapel three thousand, two hundred and sixty times in six years at school, he had not attended since, nor pursued the Bible further; there was now no time to acquire needed knowledge for divisionals.’
But this did not preclude his taking part in the Class Day exercises with his class, nor becoming engaged to Miss Holland Saltontail on that day.