I was stationed in Sabana Seca, Puerto Rico from August of 1994 to October of 1996. It was my second duty station in the Navy and I loved pretty much everything about it. I was 20 years old when I got there, and for the next 2+ years….well, I’d like to say that I could remember all of it, but that would be a lie. There are a lot of fuzzy memories down there. But one of the best memories is when I was first kissed by a man.
That last sentence is pretty much the weirdest sentence I’ve ever typed.
In the early summer of 1995, I met one Aurelio Luis Perez-Lugones (that’s his full name….I had to type out his full name because, come on…that’s one bitchin’ name!). He went by the nickname “Odie”, because apparently at one of his earlier duty stations he was known to get drunk and lick the foreheads of his drinking buddies, like Odie would do in the Garfield comics.
Don’t ask…just run with it…we did.
He came on board as our LPO (Leading Petty Officer – the senior E-6 in our division) and lived in the barracks until his wife Kim was transferred to Puerto Rico a few months later. Odie and I got along really well personally, and I introduced him to the rest of the degenerates that lived in the barracks. There were many a night where we’d all sit around at the E-Club shooting the shit or drinking beer in the smoking area between the barracks.
In September of 95, Petty Officer First Class Perez-Lugones was selected for Chief Petty Officer. This was right around when his wife Kim reported on board for duty. Kim was an E-6 as well, and ran our IT department. For those that don’t know, being promoted from E-6 to E-7 in the Navy is a huge deal, and it means that fraternization rules come into play. A Chief can’t fraternize with subordinates like they could as an E-6 or below. This was my first experience with a friend being promoted to the point that it affected our friendship. It sucked on so many levels. Odie was one of my best friends, and while I was ecstatic that he made Chief, I knew our friendship was about to change.
He was no longer “Odie”, he was “Chief”. I respected the hell out of him and was extremely happy for him that he got promoted. The one beef I had was that we couldn’t hang out as much as we had in the past. To each of our credits, we figured out how to hang out and have fun and not get in trouble.
For the most part….
MY HAIL & FAREWELL
In late September of 1996, a Hail & Farewell was set up for me at the Enlisted Club on base. Kim had been promoted to Chief as well. Same friendship, but the same rules applied to her as it did with Odie: she was “Chief”, not “Kim”, for the most part.
For enlisted, a Hail & Farewell is essentially a going away party set up by your division. I’m pretty sure that Odie & Kim helped set it up. My Hail & Farewell was scheduled to start at 4pm at the E-club on a Friday afternoon. I got there a little before 4pm, and of course there were a few friends already there. I hadn’t had a Hail & Farewell before, so even early on I felt like this was going to be a special night.
Around 4:30, most of my coworkers were at the club, almost everyone in uniform, having just come from work. This duty station wasn’t strictly US Navy. There was a large contingent of US Marine Corps that served as physical security. The USMC guys were mostly very young, this being their first duty station out of boot camp and their tech (MOS, for the military types) school.
Even though it was the Enlisted Club, officers would come in for special occasions such as this. My Division Officer, an amazing lieutenant named Krista (that is her first name…I’m not using her last name to protect the innocent), came in and sat down with my new LPO, CTO1(SW) Rich McGurr. I remember that Rich was drinking tequila in his dress whites. That stands out to me because I hardly ever saw him drink at the club. The three of us sat there and chatted about my time in Puerto Rico, and were having a good time.
About two hours later, we’re all still there, and many more friends have shown up. Odie, Kim, Rudy, Kat, and many more folks came by to celebrate my going away. We are having a damn good time, joking and reminiscing about the fun times in the 2+ years I had been stationed there. I’m drinking, smoking, and hanging out with friends, regardless of their ranks.
Rich is still drinking tequila. Krista is still drinking beer. I’m still drinking….something.
At some point, Krista mentioned the friendship between Odie and I. She said something to the effect of “Chief Perez seems to be really friendly with everyone that he was friends with before his promotion, and not letting his promotion go to his head.” Rich and I immediately agreed. Odie has always had a way about him that he can be both the asshole that he needs to be, but at the same time, completely humble.
It’s really hard to not like that sumbitch.
Full disclosure here…at this point I was well into the cups, and some of the details of the event still elude me to this day. I can only tell the story how I remember it. It might not be 100% true, but it’s still damned funny.
I have no idea how we got on the topic, but Krista made mention of how well Odie, Kim, myself and the rest of the enlisted got along both in and outside of work. Pretty sure the alcohol was in full effect when she jokingly dared me to kiss Odie. Rich and I chuckled, but she looked at us and said something like “C’mon, you two are such good friends that this would be hysterical! C’mon, Dan, go give Odie a kiss!” Notice that she used my first name, instead of my rank and last name? Yeah, that’s booze!
I looked to Rich for guidance, out of instinct, and he just kind of shook his head and laughed. I looked back at my LT and was honestly surprised by her candor. That’s when she raised a single eyebrow and cocked her head.
I didn’t have a problem at all with the idea of walking over to my Chief and giving him a pop kiss on the lips. The shock value alone would be comedy gold. Odie was currently in his Chief khaki uniform schooling some low ranked Marines in how to play pool. I was just a little taken aback that Krista dared me to do it. I’ve done worse things for less dares.
Now it’s getting serious…
THE TRIPLE DOG DARE
So Krista dared me to go up and kiss my Chief. She owned the dare, leaning back in her chair and looking at me like I didn’t have the stones to do it. I looked over at Rich, and he smiled and shook his head at me, as if to say “Dan, this is on you. She dared you to do this…not me”.
Krista smirked, still leaning back, and crossed her arms in front of her chest, as if waiting to see what I’d do. Well, when men are young, we tend to do really stupid things. I’m trying to save some face here and trying to think of some loophole to get me out of this dare, when Rich finally breaks his silence.
“LT, if you want Petty Officer Gilmore to shit or get off the pot, you need to ‘triple dog dare’ him to do it”, Rich said.
I looked at Rich like he had just slapped my mom. My first thought was “You traitorous sumbitch”, but I just stared at him, until I heard Krista chuckle. I’ll never know if the chuckle was for Rich’s reply or my reaction, but either way, she forged ahead.
“Petty Officer Gilmore….I triple dog dare you to go kiss Chief Perez!”, she said, and then leaned back to take another drink. There was no way out now. I either had to admit complete and total defeat in front of two of my supervisors that I respected immensely, or put on my big boy pants and do what needed to be doing.
Odie was in his khaki uniform, shooting pool with a bunch of Marines, all of them at least 10 years younger than him. I put out my Marlboro Red, chugged the last of my beer, and stood up. I looked Rich directly in the eyes, my face solid as stone. He looked at me with a reaction that said “Hey, what’d I do?”.
“Rich, when the waitress comes around again, can you order me another beer….you at least owe me that!”, I said. I looked over at Krista, and she was still tight lipped, apparently wondering what the hell I was about to do. I remember thinking “Dammit, Dan…Rich has the right of it…I need to shit or get off the pot”, so I turned around, and walked up to Odie.
As I came up behind him, he had just finished taking a pool shot and was giving some Privates some shit. He turned around and said “Oh, hi, Dan!”.
I leaned in and gave him a pop kiss on the lips.
The look on the Marines was absolutely priceless. They were just kind of stunned. They didn’t move or say a word, and some of them just looked at us with their jaw on the floor.
“What was that for?” Odie asked.
“Krista triple dog dared me to do it” I responded. Some of the bystanders started laughing, wondering what Odie’s response would be. He actually threw his head back and laughed. I turned around and looked at Krista and Rich and they were both laughing as were a great deal of other folks. I’m thinking that I’m good and I won the dare! WOOHOO!
In a completely serious and deadpan voice, Odie said “You think that’s a kiss? THIS is a kiss!” He then embraced me in a hug, used one of his legs to kick the back of one of my knees and dip me backwards, and proceeded to give me a REAL kiss…tongue and all.
Odie pulled me back up and our audience ERUPTED in laughter.
I could only stand there, holding onto the pool table for balance and think “Ok, THAT just happened”. Odie asked if I was ok and hugged me. I realized the humor of it all and then I absolutely lost it in laughter.
For the rest of the night, folks came up to me and/or Odie and commented on how funny the whole scene was. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a more memorable scene for a Hail & Farewell.
THE AFTERMATH (Part 1)
All the above happened on a Friday night. My next watch was Saturday night’s midwatch, so I left work at 0700 on Sunday morning. When I got back to base, I went over to get my mail. The Post Office was attached to the base’s gym, and also a little short order deli-like restaurant. So I’m sitting on a bench reading my mail, eating some breakfast and Kim rides up on her bicycle to check mail.
She gets off her bike, looks directly at me, points, and shouts “HOMEWRECKER!!” For a second there, I was scared as hell, then she started laughing. I kinda feel bad for the short order cook that witnessed it, because he didn’t know wtf had happened.
THE AFTERMATH (Part 2)
On Monday morning, the end of my second midwatch, I did my usual turnover and was about to go home. As I walked out of the comm center, Krista was walking in. She asked me to grab Rich and meet her in her office. This was a very odd request, but when your Division Officer tells you to something, you do it.
Rich and I sat in front of Krista’s desk and neither of us had an idea what was going to happen. Situations like this usually led to an ass chewing. Rich and I prepared for it.
“I completely and totally apologize for my actions on Friday night”, Krista said.
Rich and I looked at her, at each other, and back at her. I was confused. Everything that had happened was all in good fun, and there shouldn’t have been any apologies from anyone. Krista said that Odie was on leave, and she’d have to apologize to him in person at a later date. She said that she was completely out of line to ask me to do something like she asked. I was even more confused.
“Permission to speak freely?” I asked.
“Permission granted, Petty Officer Gilmore,” she responded.
“What the fuck, ma’am? I don’t need – nor want – your apology. I have absolutely no issue with what went down, and I don’t think anyone else should either” I said.
It turns out that our Commanding Officer found out about the whole thing and was pissed that our LT was at the start of it. LT got reamed out for something that was so stupid, and she was forced to apologize to the “lower” enlisted that were part of it.
I told her, “Ma’am, I don’t accept your apology because it is not necessary. It was all in good fun and I’d do it again in a heartbeat because it was hysterical”. She just looked at me and smiled.
“Thank you,” she said.
Officially, that was the end.
She looked at me and said, “For the record, that was one of the funniest things I’ve ever fucking seen”.
And with that, it made it all ok.