As long as I can remember, old guys have been sitting around in saloons telling stories of the good old days, when things were happening that will never happen again in a world better than the one we live in today. I had never been more than an interested spectator at these sessions because I'd been too young to have shared in their experiences. Well, everything that goes around comes around, as they say, and I guess I'm one of the old guys now because I've got a story for you -oh, God, what a story- about a time and a place that has disappeared from the face of the earth. Friends of mine who have gone back there recently for reasons of their own warn me. "Stay away," they say. "Keep your memories intact. There's nothing there now but factories and railheads and concrete highways." I joined the Marines in 1952, when I was sixteen years old. I forged my birth certificate, and my father testified to the fact that I was seventeen. After Parris Island, I went directly to Korea. I did not pass Go and collect $200, or anything like that. All of a sudden, I was in a frozen wasteland of rape, death, and destruction; an armorer driving around alone in his Jeep, fixing weapons and puking with fear and horror at the sight of my brothers being blown to pieces in the snow and ice. There was a lot of morphine around, and we took it to get through the days and nights, the nights when you dug a cave out of the snow and slept in a bag to escape the relentless cold. And mortar shells hit, and you bounced off the ground like a basketball. Eventually, the snow melted, and the ice turned to mud in a drugged haze in which the measurement of time was a forgotten memory. One hot morning they told us that the war was over, and then I was on a ship bound for Japan. In Yokosuka, we got on buses in the early evening and were chauffeured out of the city. Winding country roads on a mountainous landscape passed through small towns filled with delicate houses of teak and rice paper. Multi-colored lanterns lit cinder streets, and the sky was a clear shower of stars blessed with an enormous full moon. I had no doubt that we had entered an enchanted paradise. The men were exhausted, and the bus was quiet as we encountered an extremely long stretch of dark, deserted highway, and then, as we turned around the side of a series of high rolling hills, Mount Fuji came out of the night like a sparkling apparition. A cry of wonder rose from the ranks of tired marines. Those asleep woke up and thought they must be dreaming, thought the morphine was playing tricks with their minds. The top of the great black pyramid was covered with snow and shining like ivory in the moonlight. The stars twinkled in symphonic majesty all around the phenomenon that dwarfed everything in its domain. I wept at the beauty before me, and I wept for Jay and Theo and Marty who would never see it, who would never see anything again because they had been ripped apart in the nightmare that they said was over. We arrived at Middle Camp Fuji well after midnight. It was a Marine Corps installation no more than ten miles from the foot of the mountain that continued to dominate the scene. The buses unloaded on a parade field, and we fell into some semblance of ranks. Our names were called, and we followed an NCO to our predetermined destinations. Sgt. Skaggs took my group into an armory at the back of a barracks, gave us coffee and cigarettes, and sat us down on cans, benches, and a counter. "No doubt you guys have heard of this place," he said. "It's probably the best liberty in the Corps. You won't get to go out for two weeks. The CO thinks it's better if you have time to get acclimated. Pick up two sheets, a blanket, and a pillow case over there, and I'll show you where to sack out. Cpl. White, you wait here til I get back." I was Cpl. White, and I waited. My arms ached from carrying my seabag, and the coffee tasted awful, but I continued to drink it. When Skaggs came back, he told me that he was the armorer for Weapons Company, Third Marines, Third Marine Division, and that I was to be his assistant and eventually his replacement when he went home. Our quarters were a small room right off the armory, and I hit the sack as soon as he stopped talking. In the two weeks that followed, I learned my job and waited like the rest, with bated breath, for my first night in town. A barbed wire fence surrounded the base, and the village of Itazuma pressed right against it on one side. Bars with names such as Club Casino, Evening Star, Duffy's Tavern, and Flower Fuji were in plain view, and after liberty call I could see marines going in and out of them. And I could see the prostitutes who lived and worked in them walking on the street. They wore kimonos in pastel colors, Chinese silk dresses with slits up the sides, blue jeans and sweaters. They all walked on gaiters, thick wooden gaiters that crunched in the cinders. And they were beautiful - tall and willowy, short and stocky, light and dark - all with straight black hair and the exotic faces of an ancient civilization. The area was extremely rural. There were fields of rice on the other three sides of the base, and there were forests in the distance. The bars themselves, though some were considerable in size, were little more than shacks thrown together to accomodate the occupying troops. My first night out finally arrived, and I wandered down Itazuma's main drag, an unpaved, narrow thoroughfare with bars on both sides - The White Rose, Bar Columbia, Bar Lilly, Bar Chigago. It all wound haphazardly downhill. It was early, about six o'clock, and I drank a beer here and there. The girls joked with one another, ate dinner, and teased me. They sat in booths and played cards. They danced together. They returned from the public bathhouse, towels and cosmetic kits in hand. It was too soon in the day for sex. After awhile, I settled in at The Happy Bar, a ramshackle, two-story structure of twenty rooms or more. The owner, a Japanese fellow who called himself Jimmy, lived with his wife and two young children in an apartment connected to one side. On entering the place, the bar was to the right, and tables, chairs, a dance floor, and a jukebox were to the left. I sat at a table and bought a girl a beer. She called herself Nancy. She was a pixie-like creature, tiny and frail, with a delicate, round face. She wore a yellow kimono and smiled openly. "What you do?" she asked. "I just got here from Korea," I said. "It's my first night out." She laughed. "Cherry boy!" she said. "You want to go short time?" "Not yet," I said. "Maybe later." "No good later," she said. "I have steady boyfriend. He want to take me steady house. Maybe pretty soon go." I continued to drink and got drunker and drunker. The bar filled up. There were about a dozen girls working and more than twenty marines around the room. They danced and kissed and went upstairs for short times. The girls had their own rooms over the bar. "How much is a short time?" I asked. "Short time six hundred yen. All night fifteen hundred yen," Nancy said. I did the arithmetic. It came out to about three dollars and seven dollars. The price was right. "What's your real name?" I asked. "Nani mo!" Nancy said. "Nancy is name, dyo!" "Yes, but your real name," I said smiling. "What's wrong with telling me your real name?" "Nobody never no ask," she said, and then she blushed. "Etsuko Nishioka." "That's a nice name," I said. Bacca ta, dyo," she replied. I later found out that it meant that I was crazy. Nancy hadn't lied to me. Her boyfriend showed up, and I knew him. His name was Bill Askey, and he was in my outfit. He gave me a dirty look and whisked her away. The bars were rigorously controlled by the Marine Corps. Each was inspected regularly and granted an "on limits" license. The girls were examined once a week for venereal diseases, and if they had one of them, they were required to take ten days off and go to sickbay on the base for treatment. The bars were forced to close at eleven o'clock. It was permitted to stay all night with a girl, but marines on the street were required to return to the base. Amid these conditions for the first time, I drank myself into oblivion, and when eleven o'clock came, I was approached by Doris, the prettiest girl at The Happy Bar, and asked if I wanted to stay all night. "Sure," I mumbled, "but I don't understand. How could you not have somebody?" "Boyfriend have duty," she replied. "I like try cherry boy." "You got it," I said, and I stumbled up a narrow staircase to her boudoir, a spacious, comfortable bedroom with windows overlooking the street. A boy passed outside with a cart, selling fish soup, and from the window she ordered two bowls. He brought them up, and we ate. It was delicious. Afterward, we made love in a jovial, energetic fashion appropriate to a teenaged combat veteran and a stunning hooker with, I was to find out later, a heart of gold. At five o'clock in the morning, she shook me out of my stupor. "Candysan," she said, "hurry up. Hyaku ne! Time you go backu base. Pretty soon late, dyo!" And so, I put on my uniform, and she urged me into the street with a legion of other marines as much hung over as I was. She had not only satisfied my needs, she had also coined a nickname that would stay with me during my entire tour of duty. Marines called me Jimmy, but the girls couldn't say that. They dubbed me Candy instead. In the months that followed, I slept with many girls in many bars in Itazuma as well as Gotemba, a much larger town a few miles away. There, I fell in love with a young goddess named Akemi in a huge dance hall, but we never quite got it on. She eventually went to live with a buddy of mine from L.A. named Eddie Reeves. In Gotemba, there was an Hungarian restaurant run by a guy named Tibor from Budapest who just liked it there. Another unusual establishment was The Bon, a non-whoring bar that played the best jazz on a sophisticated sound system and served terrific food. But the time came when I wandered back to The Happy Bar and made it my regular hangout. Bill Askey and Nancy broke up, and I became her regular guy. She was a sweet, simple soul who had walked off a nearby farm and started selling her body. I took her to the movies, where she always cried at the sad parts and didn't understand the funny parts. In public, she clung to my arm as though her life depended on it, and in private, she was the most gentle lover that I've ever had. She stayed at the bar but rarely slept with anyone but me. I met a Navy corpsman named MacBrain who had a job that made us both a lot of money. He met all the shipments of drugs from the States and marked merchandise damaged or destroyed in transit. As I knew people all over the area, he enlisted me to sell whatever he could steal. We sold alum, sodium pentothol, and morphine to the girls and a variety of other things to the marines. We used Nancy's room as a storehouse. Jimmy, the owner of The Happy Bar, got a small piece of the action, and Nancy became the best-dressed hooker around. Then things started to get hairy. A friend of mine named Alan beat up an MP one night, and the fellow died. The Criminal Investigation Department was looking for Alan because he'd gone AWOL. He didn't want to be tried for murder. We hid him out with his girl in The Happy Bar for a month or so, until one day, the CID just walked in and arrested him. They'd known exactly where he was. Someone had ratted him out. We got some evidence that a red-necked sergeant from Alabama had given him up, and one night, in a drunken rage, one of my guys stuck a knife in him and killed him. We threw the body in the furnace that served the bathhouse, and it was never found. Later, we got the word that it had been Alan's parents who had given him up. He'd written home to tell them that he was allright, and they'd called and told where he was. I guess the World War II propaganda about the Japanese had stuck with them. They'd rather have him doing life in Portsmouth than living with his girl in Hong Kong or wherever else we might have worked out to send him. A year or so after that, the CID broke into Nancy's room and discovered our stash. They busted me and put me on restriction awaiting court-martial. That's when I was hit with the biggest surprise. Doris came to see me on the base and revealed that she wasn't native Japanese at all. She was an American Navy nurse who was on the lam for dealing heroin in the Yokosuka Naval Hospital. She had adopted an accent, perfected her Japanese, and disappeared into the landscape. At the time, I had lots of cash hidden away, but I had no access to it, and it was unsafe to send anyone to get it. The CID might have been watching it. Doris hired a civilian American lawyer from Tokyo to defend me at my court-martial and paid him. She tutored Jimmy and Nancy as to what to say when they were put on the stand, and we beat the case. The CID had screwed up. They weren't able to establish that I had ever been in the room where they found the drugs. I wound up getting thirty days in the local brig for going AWOL. The only thing they were able to prove was that I had gone out a couple of times while on restriction. It was true. I had snuck out to be with Nancy once or twice. When I got out of the brig, I discovered that Nancy had left the bar and moved in with Bill Askey. I confronted her, and she wept and said that she loved me. I realized that the cops and the trial had been too much for her and that these things had left her deathly afraid. I walked away from her figuring that she was better off with Bill than me, but it hurt to do so. A few weeks after that, Doris' boyfriend was shipped out, and she and I got together. She stopped peddling her body, and we rented her room from Jimmy and lived at The Happy Bar. The enchanted paradise was somewhat tarnished but no less enchanting. Doris got pregnant about the same time as I was supposed to return to the States for discharge, and I reenlisted on the understanding that I would remain in Japan. As the Marines needed armorers, they agreed to my terms. The baby was less than two years old when the Marines left Japan as a unit bound for Okinawa. Doris and I made plans to set up house in Naha, but the weeks passed, and she never showed up. I never saw her or the baby again. I think she probably copped out because she was afraid of being identified on the American military stronghold of Okinawa. Over sixty now and twice divorced, not a day goes by that I don't think of Doris and the baby. If she's still alive, she's a few years older than I am, and our daughter is over forty. We were ordinary children ourselves in those days, ordinary children in a very special heaven overseen by a snow-capped mountain awash in stars and dreams that is now, so they tell me, choked in the sulfur simoom of commerce and industry.
Causes Kenneth Brown Supports
Adherence to the Constitution of the United States as written and the prosecution of those who violate Constitutional Law.