The Guam Experience

From: Mate Horizon Hawk
Sent: Wednesday, November 18, 2009 5:28 AM

Subject: Voyage 030. The Guam Experience
It was HOT.
I mean HOT in a hard tropical Guam way. Not that easy dry California hot.
Hot where you are covered in sweat seconds after leaving the safety of air conditioning. Hot where a minute later you are soaked to the skin and dripping wet…
A kind of Hot that just smothers you, weighing you down as you walk, as if gravity itself was increasing, making each step more laborious than the last. A mind numbing Hot. No thoughts, no thinking possible, moving on survival instinct only, constantly wiping the stinging sweat from your eyes as you trip and stumble along.

Was an overwhelmingly depressing Hot - not a happy hot. Not at all.

Somehow made it to the Seaman’s club. Staggered into the air conditioned sanctuary, well stocked with almost everything that a seaman might require. What I required was water. What I ordered was beer…

Over heated brain must have gotten the signals mixed somehow. But a few ice cold San Miguel’s into my belly and I sure felt like I was on the road to recovery. My head had stopped spinning. Another beer and my eyes were able to focus again. Both of them. The next one triggered that euphoric rush of surviving a near death experience. Everything was So Great! Everything was So Wonderful!…

Ahhh, the magic of beer, I thought as a blissful smile replaced that grim look of certain death I had come in here with. Another cold one slid down my throat and that guy at the bar - who was such a jerk on the ship, was suddenly my new best friend. Exchanged life stories and home phone numbers as he bought me another…

Enough. I came here to swim, and it was time. One more and out the back door and into ocean I go. It’s what I planned when I left the ship, why I had carried the mask, fins and snorkel with me so many painful miles.

The ocean felt wonderful. Twist and turn under water chasing multi-colored strange looking fish. Felt One with Sea. But the sun burning my shoulders and face, and my parched salt-coated throat forced me out sooner than I had wanted. Out of one liquidy environment and back into the other. Not really a clear boundary between the two as in these latitudes fish fly in the air, birds swim underwater and crabs walk on land…

Swam my way back across the reef, breast stroked up the rocks and over the coral, and free styled my way into the Seaman’s club and up to the bar. “Water” is what I thought I said but what appeared before me was a San Miguel. Ummm… well maybe it is bottled water, bottled in these ice cold brown bottles. Better taste it… ahhh…. Like angels dancing on my tongue – the nectar of the Island Gods slides down my throat… no it’s not water, at least not in this bottle – maybe there’s water in the next one…. Had better check. Nope, no water in this one either but in the next one….

Then the boys appeared, quenched their thirst, seized me and off in the rent-a-car we go.

Take in the view from the back seat. Thru my salt encrusted blue eyes and San Miguel altered mind…. Not sure if it’s a submarine we are in or car as an intense rain squall hits, pisses on us then moves on… The outside even more distorted to me now, melting cars blurring by as giant geckos with long forked tongues chase them…

Jungle foliage interspaced with houses either under construction or under destruction - can’t tell the difference. More jungle and abandoned rusted cars melting into the ground. Why were they abandoned? What became of their owners? Around the next curve, a fast moving band of wild aggressive Guamanian chickens answers that question… Pack like coordination as they spot and quickly surround us. But skillful driving by someone else saves us from certain death.

Time slows and blurs and so does sound. It’s just a constant ocean roar I am hearing. And melting, everything out there is melting… melting in the 2000 degree heat. What color is green and Toyota when melted together?… For a little while there I knew the answer – felt it. Tasted it.

Eventually my brain cooled and returned to normal size as the AC finally kicked in. Still in the car, still moving but the world outside had stopped melting; the ferocious chickens and giant geckos had faded away.
It was going to be OK.

7 Likes

Nice one!

1 Like

My Pop got orders for Guam in the 70’s, I decided to not go and joined SIU and started tugboating in my teens… Best move I ever made. This story is very relatable to what my little brothers told me of the 3 or so years they were there. Well written sir.

1 Like

Did you make it to Toy’s Tavern?

1 Like

Remember the wife getting mad 15 years ago when she found out that Vikings wasn’t a sushi bar. She still reminds me.

4 Likes

Thanks!

I don’t remember the name but I could well have visited that pub. Was on the Guam run for years. We also used to stop in at JAN Z’s and some place decorated with US Navy hard hat dive gear and another spot I can’t remember that wasn’t too far down the road from the port.

1 Like

I liked Jan Z’s, but I hear they’re closed, last several times in Guam not allowed ashore (Covid)
Toy’s is (if it’s still there) was just a small local dive, nice joint really

A no shit story about Guam from mid 70’s. I got a letter from my brother detailing a brawl during a BBQ on either Christmas Day or Eve. Three drunk marines were cutting through my folks back yard of off limits Navy housing. A war of insults ensued and one shoved my mother. Dad (A Master Chief) and brothers went into apeshit mode. The poor neighbor across the street came to help and did not fare well. Shore patrol showed up and took everyone involved to the brig to sort things out… Pop and family were released shortly after, the grunts did not enjoy the aftermath after their boss got ahold of them. They got transferred off the island, which they more than likely welcomed.

There was Uncle Bob’s down the road from the Navy base that had a bunch navy shit. Great open air place that had cold beer and pretty good food. As I recall it got washed away during super typhoon Omar years ago.

Edit: Believe it was rebuilt but not in the same place.

1 Like

How about Jeff’s Pirate’s Cove around the other side of the Island, and if you have the time, and can stay out of the bars, there is some really excellent hiking on Guam

Been there (Jeff’s Pirate’s Cove) numerous times before they got really touristy. Great Burgers back then. One of my favorite places was Tahiti Rama Beach Bar located on Tumon Bay before it got torn down and replaced by a hotel.

Before my folks left with the other four kids for Guam,I went to the local library. The lady actually worked in Guam at one time. I had a killer blond girlfriend at the time. Librarian told me the ratio of girls to men was about ten to 1 or worse. And, out of ten gals, most were rather large women. An easy choice to not go and joined SIU/IBU. I married a different blond 7 years later, together 41 years and counting.

My Guam memories come with mixed feelings. I was there age 6-8 in the mid '60’s. Mostly cool for a kid, but we had instruction in unexploded ordinance lest we blew ourselves up. And Guam Sores… :unamused: Infected wounds required soaking and scrubbing with Phisohex. Extremely painful.

But the military BBQ’s were great! GI cans full of unlimited Cokes.

1 Like

Phisohex in the green container. Kinda got rid of the zits.

1 Like

Vote yes on that one. One time after a particularly messed up port call was given a rental car and told to get the Mate off the ship for a while. We went to Jeff’s and de-stressed with good burgers and good views. They used to sell T-shirts with that Japanese soldier’s image on it. They guy who walked out of the jungle many years after the war ended.

Years ago on a crew change stayed over and visited the WW2 museum and the beach to scoop up some sand where a great uncle landed with the 77th.

Also hit this hot dog / brat / sausage joint run by a German guy. Called McKraut’s. Same side of the island as Jeff’s. Great meal.

1 Like

Same building, it’s Sumay Burgers now. No rental cars anymore either. It’s ok, but definitely not the same as it was as Uncle Bob’s.

I was on the Guam run for nearly 20 years. I found if you played to the island’s strengths and what it offered it was a great place to visit. I got to know the pilots that brought us in fairly well and they would allow me to borrow Cabras Marine’s outboard runabout to scuba dive in the harbor. Besides the reefs inside the harbor there are several wrecks to see. I never tired of diving on the Tokai Maru and SMS Cormoran. (Yes, I was usually able to find someone else on the ship who scuba dived to tag along)

On the trips I made the pilots were great, not just getting the ship in and out but a lot of good advice and info wrt how the port works.

I made a few trips over the years but never made it ashore, always on RO-RO so fast in and out. We did purchase fresh tuna from the agent which was very good. Agent used to rip us off but still worth it.

1 Like

Those tuna boats used to tie up and discharge down the pier from us. If they were off-loading same time we were in the steward would occasionally buy tuna steaks off the boats or the place right inside the warehouse. The really good stuff got loaded into air freight containers straight away and flown to Japan.