Friday, July 30, 2010

Portrait of a Dockside Doll

The Naval medical supply ship, USS Derbley, is pulling into port and Marga D. hopes to be pulling everything off soon sfterwards.  She's been at every Navy ship's return to the Port of Hampton Roads since 1986 providing much needed relief for our servicemen (and, so far, 3 women) moments after they return from the sea - the nagging, familiar sea. 

Continued deployments to the Middle East mean steady business for Marga.  On average, 7 ships return to port from distant waters every week and local television news cameras only show up at about 1 a month.  "They want the hugging and the kissing and tears," says Marga, "all for some short, 20 second clip to show in between car crash footage and gang shooting stuff to make people feel good.  Cameras don't show up for the supply ships or the maintenience cruisers.  Nobody cares about them.  But I do."  She winks.  A slow wink.

A cackly laugh turns into a minute of violent, thick phlegm gurgling.  She spits outta gray, clam-sized chunk into the water and lights another cigarette.  "Sure, they feign and faw for the cameras, but a few hours later, they're at home changing a squishy diaper, looking at a stack of credit card bills, and miserable.  We'll go to my van, take care of business, and they'll really open up to me - tell me all their fears and hopes.  At some point I gotta hurry 'em up 'cause there's a fella or two waiting for me."  A seagull lands nearby.  Marga yells at it and laughs.

Wait a minute - something slipped by real quick.  She doesn't mean the MARRIED ones?  Does she?

"Oh, I've had guys wear disguises off the ship - fake beards, glasses, and a cane or something - to sneak past their wife and kids to be with me," boasts Marga.


During the days of the first Gulf War in '91, Marga rented the top floor of a nearby hotel and employed several female associates (and one guy) to accomodate over 100 sailors a week.  "You also gotta remember all the shipbuilders, plumbers, electricians, and so forth in the area during that time.  Those were the glory days - the glory HOLE days," she adds as she flicks her cigarette straight up in the air and dodges it as it falls back down.  The USS Derbley is approaching.  "Showtime."

She's used to long, complicated docking process that a ship goes through.  Ropes are thrown.  Big bubbles explode underwater.  There's lots of yelling and whistles.  It's like some kind of nautical foreplay and Marga loves every minute of it.  "You know, they call ships 'she' and 'her'.  I like that."  The gangplank is lowered and a few wives start quivering with excitement.  They hold bags of fast food up in the air and wave them.  The little kids yawn and stare at Marga as she applies a fresh coat of "Cherry Lick" lipstick and smacks her lips together loudly.  "Schmmmmmmmop."  She checks her teeth in the reflection of her Zippo, finally spotting that chunk of Dorito I noticed earlier, fluffs her crunchy bangs, and does a few slow motion squat thrusts for preparation. 

The men disembark the ship with big, bulbous bags over their shoulders.  One at a time, they all acknowledge Marga with a grin or a nod, but none stop.  Cars leave the parking lot with contented shipmen and their families inside.  Just when it seems like today is a bust, a sailor yells her name from the poopdeck.  He looks like a young, bald Mexican Rick Moranis. 

They embrace as he steps onto dry land for the first time since March.  They kiss.  He lifts her off her feet and spins her around.  When their lips part, Marga lets out a long, wet burp and doesn't even say goodbye to me as he carries her, honeymoon style, to her van.  A muffled "Anchors Away" blasts from the speakers as sporadic laughter slowly turns into angry groaning and slapping sounds.  I back away slowly at first, then start sprinting.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Freedom Pilot '76

Found the front page section of an old Virginian-Pilot from Sunday, July 4, 1976 at the very bottom of my elderly parakeet's cage today...

The great Guy Friddell asked some local folks to share their thoughts on the current state of the country.  Here are some of my favorite excerpts.

"People today just don't give a damn about their fellow man," said Bob Moss, 31, a corrections officer and paramedic at St. Brides Correctional Unit.  "That's from right here in Chesapeake on up to Capitol Hill."  He reeled in his line, baited it with another cricket, and cast it out into the Northwest River again.  "Too windy today to catch anything, but it passes the time of day.  It's relaxing," he said, sitting back down on the railroad trestle.

"We're battling each other trying to keep up with the Joneses and how much money they make.  We want too much.  Too much comfort; machines to save us time.  But then what do we do with the leisure time?  How many sit on a riverbank like this and listen to the birds?"

I like to imagine Mr Friddell, dressed in slacks, white short-sleeved shirt, and tie getting back into his huge sedan, wiping the sweat from his brow, and waving to Mr. Moss as he pulls away.  And just as the dust settles on the gravel road, Mr. Moss reels in a duffle bag full of soggy $100 bills.

"People don't take the time to understand one another,  They're indifferent," said Lance Manning, 23, as he lay on the sofa in his Norfolk apartment.  A deliveryman for a local bakery, he was home with an illness.  He was in his pajamas and his legs were covered with a blanket.

His wife, Donna, 18, a recent high school graduate, sat on the floor.  "The mood has been created by industry.  When we moved back here after the Navy, the area had changed.  It was more a mood of rush and hurry.  Industry brought in the deadline.  Lance has even changed.  Now he has more deadlines to meet.  And I can see a change in his personality.

"It's frustrating.  You're getting chewed up in this.  I just wish that sometimes people would stop and look at me, at everyone, as an individual: a different person."

Nice to see that the ol' "Sudden Pre-Independence Day Weekend Bug" was going around way back in 1976.  I thought I invented it. 

I wonder how Mr. Friddell gained entry into their apartment.  Was he driving around Norfolk looking for someone that appeared friendly enough to interview?  How many people just flat out refused?  "Who?  About what?  Naw, man, I don't wanna say anything.  I don't even read the paper."

Maybe Donna was getting something from their car, Mr. Friddell approaches and flashes a Virginian-Pilot I.D. card of some kind, Donna inspects it closely, and says "Well, I guess so.  C'mon in".  Lance, lounging on the couch, watching "The Price is Right", is startled when she bursts back into the front room with a strange man in his 50s.  "This man's from the paper and wants to talk to us.  Sit up."

Wonder if they're still together or if they're still in Norfolk?  at the same apartment, maybe?  My exhaustive googling (3.2 minutes worth) was fruitless.

Mr. Friddell talked a bunch of other people, including Rabbi Lawrence A. Forman of Ohef Sholom Temple in Norfolk ("We sometimes tend to let the problems control us rather than we controlling the problems."), three insurance salesmen at a restaurant in Suffolk ("Taxes and everything else is going up," said the one in a green plaid suit.), Natalie O'Shea, a divorced mother of three and the manager of Bayside Kennels on Virginia Beach Boulevard ("If it came down to it, I wouldn't accept welfare."), Air Force pilot Bill Walker in Redwing Park (He stopped playing Frisbee with his 15-month-old son Tyson to talk), and L. B. Parsons -

"Yeah, what's the use of complaining," said L. B. Parsons, 60, as he sat on a milk crate in his store, Parson's Grocery on Ballahack Road in Chesapeake.  Dust covered many of the items on the shelves.  "They're (politicians) going to do what they want.  You used to know that once a man got in, he'd vote one way,  Now they change so often you don't know what's happening."

Allright, enough serious stuff...let's get on with the HILARIOUS OLD ADVERTISMENTS!

Sears Putter Suits will never go out of style.  They're all I wear.

Just two of the super deals to be found at Moore's Building Supply - at 3224 Atlantic Avenue in Chesapeake or 100 South Lynn Shore Drive. 

From Big Star Foods - with 16 locations all over Hampton Roads.

This is probably the strangest ad in the front page section.  I wasn't aware that silhouettes were so immensely popular in the disco era that a silhouette artist's appearance at a Janaf department store had to be "HELD OVER 1 WEEK!".  And not just for a quick little meet and greet - L. Pierre was there for about 8 hours each weekday and 6 hours on Saturday pumping out silhouettes at 88 cents a pop.  This dude must have loved cutting people's profiles.  Well, not everybody.  At the bottom of the ad, it says "Bring your children (baby to 16 years) and Bottemer will cut delightful silhouettes in minutes".   And in tiny writing at the very bottom, it says "Sorry, Mr. Bottemer cannot accept phone calls."   Guess that was in his contract or something.  "No, no - I can not accept 'zee telephon call.  Tell 'zem to come here.  I do 'zeir child's silhouettes only here."  Actually, he might not have had a French accent.  He could have had a Georgia drawl for all I know.

Check out some of his silhouette work here and one of his paintings here.  After some random clicking, I discovered that Mr. Bottemer was the courtroom sketch artist at Richard Hauptman's trial New Jersey in 1935.  You know, the guy that kidnapped Charles Lindbergh's 20-month-old son?  Read all about it here.

Next to the silhouette artist ad,  there's a funny review of a Harry Chapin concert at the Dome in Virginia Beach the previous Friday.  The reviewer, Sean Brickell, and I aren't Harry Chapin fans.  Read these two little snippets -

"For the first two hours of the second set, Chapin gave no more than 50% music.  The remainder of the time was spent telling songs' histories, personal philosophies, or jokes as predictable as the sun's rising."

"Unfortunately, all too frequently, the band tried to play rock n' roll, which it isn't equipped to do.  Chapin sadly tried to pass it off with concert cliches like 'boogie', 'rock n' roll', or 'can you dig it'?"

And finally, for no real reason, here's the tide chart.  Enjoy.