Robbie Defends a Stripper
Excerpted from My BooK of ‘nevers’ By james robinson
The last week in Dallas was a bittersweet experience. Although the approaching chance to be on my own was enticing, I still had reservations about leaving the security of a life I had become very comfortable with. I knew a new phase of my life was beginning and everything I was accustomed to would never be the same again. I never dreamed that in two months I would have a humbling lesson and learn to ‘never defend a stripper’.
Dad and I went to the Army-Navy store and picked out some things on my list that I needed for boot camp. The last couple of days I “winterized” my Plymouth and asked Tommy to give it a good tune up since Mother would be driving it while I was gone. One by one, my friends dropped by and gave me “gag” gifts for me to remember them and to say goodbye. Then, I cleaned my room, packed my sea bag and Mom and Dad drove me to Union Terminal. As the train departed the station I looked back at the disappearing Dallas skyline and the life I was leaving behind.
High school and all the things that had occurred were in the history books now and a new stage of my life was about to commence. The next few years would see me grow from that lanky school kid into a man and with that change I would have to accept new challenges and responsibilities I never dreamed of.
Upon arrival in San Diego, I had been given instructions to take a Navy bus out to the base. The first couple of hours were very confusing. All the new recruits were checking in and running here and there asking directions to various buildings; indoctrination, medical, clothing supply, and the all-time favorite – the barber. Oh, yeah that was fun! The base barber had the unique name of “Cochise” because he was a master at “scalping”.
I envisioned that if an aerial shot of our company were taken from the air, we would all look like a bunch of billiard balls! The structure of the base calendar was different to anything I had known. For instance: Wednesday of the third week was called the 3-3 day, and Saturday of the seventh week was the 7-7 day. The bad news was we didn’t have a prayer of getting our first liberty until the 9-6 day for 48 hours.
Between the first week and that day of “liberation” I was taught how to fight fires at sea, drop omtp sand from a twenty-foot tower, nd martial arts, so I would know how to defend myself in the event I was faced with a life or death struggle with an enemy. I also learned a lot about helping in the kitchen (Kitchen Police or KP) and lost count of the potatoes I was asked to peel.
When we finally made it through the first stage, I had befriended Frank Parker, a heavy but well-proportioned, six-foot-six farm boy from Ardmore, Oklahoma and Jack Simms from Carson City, Nevada. The three of us were ready to “let off some steam” and we had heard there were bars in downtown San Diego that didn’t care if you were 21 or not, and neither of us were.
We walked all up and down the main boulevard and finally decided we would try the Metropolitan Bar after seeing pictures on the windows of “Bambi”, its topless dancer. The bartender gave us a round of drinks and we sat down at a table to watch the show. Bambi put on quite an act. She pranced around the small stage swinging her “tassels” and singing a song that I could tell was way off-key.
Pretty soon, a man at the table closest to the stage started trying to grab her leg and she moved to the other side of the platform. Then, he stretched his body way over the stage and grabbled Bambi by her foot and began to pull her toward him. She was doing her best to continue with the song and hobble on one leg. I had endured this long enough and got up, went over to him and said, “Leave her alone pal, she’s trying to do her act here.” He eyed me with scorn and reared back to swing at me. I stepped to the side and he hit thin air. I tried to reason with him, since he didn’t seem drunk and said, “She doesn’t want anything to do with you, idiot!” Again he swung at me. I decided enough was enough.
All the strenuous training I had gone through for the last nine weeks had left me with a solid “physique” and I caught his fist with my left hand and “clocked” him one blow full in the face with my right fist. He staggered back, cleared a table, fell over a couple of chairs and lay still on the floor. I had only had two small fights in high school, which I lost and I couldn’t believe I had knocked this guy out “cold”. Bambi screamed, jumped off the stage, went over to him and leaned down and touched his forehead. Then she looked up at me and said, “You’re the idiot!”
Frank and Jack called me over the bar and Jack said, “That deserves a beer. What a lucky punch!” The bartender poured our drinks then said, “Yeah, a lucky punch okay, but only two things wrong with it that I could see.” I was still feeling pretty cocky and asked him, “What are the two things wrong?” He took a towel off his rack and started wiping a glass and said, “Well, in the first place, that guy you plastered is Bambi’s boyfriend.” I retorted, “Yeah, so what? He was way out of line. I don’t care if he is her boyfriend. What else?"
He kept wiping the glass then said, “Second thing is her boyfriend is Mr. Del Gado, and he owns this bar.”
Frank slapped me on the back because I was starting to choke on my beer. The bartender put the towel over his shoulder and placed his hands on his hips as though he was asking, “What’s your next act buddy?” We paid him and quietly left while Mr. Del Gado was coming out of his “nap”. Then we mutually agreed that was enough “fun” for one night and decided to take in an all-night movie..
Epilog: We frequented the bars in San Diego many more times before boot camp ended, but never set foot in the Metropolitan Bar again. A few weeks later, we all went our separate ways and my first duty station was an assignment to the USS Whitehurst, a destroyer escort that was just coming out of dry dock in Long Beach.
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