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Tattooed lady and Battle of the Century . . .

Tattooed lady and Battle of the Century

Early in my military career I was privileged to spend some 15 months in one of the most beautiful countries in the exotic far East—well, actually my time there was mandated by the US Department of Defense because of the Korean War, a conflict that began in June of 1950 and was in full swing throughout my sojourn there.

My superiors told me that I was there to help South Korea resist a takeover by North Korea and others, specifically communist China, a northern neighbor that was in turn assisted by Russia, a nation that obligingly provided war weapons and other materials. I did the best I could to help win the war, but the outcome was not completely successful—it raged on for some four years and ended in a draw. The truce that ended the war still exists, and the possibility of renewal of the conflict ebbs and flows.

My memories of my time in South Korea are plentiful and vivid. Among those memories is one of a small RCA portable record player and two vinyl records, one 45 RPM (revolutions per minute) and the other an LP (long play, 33 1/3 revolutions per minute)—yes, Virginia, vinyl records—cassette tapes, CDs and DVDs were many years into the future. I don’t remember who claimed ownership of the records or the record player, but the two records and their contents still loom large in my memory, and for good reason—I listened to them so many times that I still retain most of the lines. They were the only records we had, so they had a lot of play.

The 45 RPM had the song below—I don’t remember the flip side because we rarely played it. I don’t remember the artist, but internet research indicates that the artist was probably Skeets McDonald, a county singer prominent in the 1950s and 1960s. There are numerous versions available online, all differing in some respect, but the one below is the real McCoy–trust me—I’ve been carrying it around in my mind for some 60 years or so—hey, I sometimes use it to lull myself to sleep! These are the words I remember:

Once I married a tattooed lady
It was on a cold winter day
And tattooed all around her body
Was a map of the good old USA.

Upon her leg was Minnesota
On her shoulder Tennessee
And tattooed on her back
Was good old Hackensack
The place where I longed to be.

Upon her chest was West Virginia
Through those hills I did love to roam
And when the moonlight starts to shine
Down on her Wabash
That’s when I recognized my Indiana home.

Special note: There are two words in this posting that are generally considered vulgar—both words basically consist of four letters and one syllable. Either may be used as a noun, whether singular or plural, and both may be conjugated under the prevailing rules of conjugation and used as verbs—present, past, future and all the more subtle tenses allowed—and both may be used as descriptive adjectives.

Of the two records available, the LP record was the one most often played. It was titled The battle of the century, a championship contest waged between the US world champion and his challenger from Australia, a fighter that trained for the competition by traveling from his native country to the United States on a boat loaded with raw cabbages—a fighter on a freighter from a far-flung land, so to speak (I really love alliteration!).

Is the light beginning to dawn? Can you guess the nature of the contest? Huh? Huh? Can ya? I’ll give you this much of a hint—the operative words are raw cabbages.

If you have ever listened to a radio announcer’s description of a world champion boxer defending his title against a challenger, you’ll understand how the record sounded. The contest took place in a circular arena with elevated spectator seats arranged around 360 degrees. In the exact center of the ring was a post, gripped by the contestants to provide stability as they competed. The announcer described in detail the ring and its contents, the spectators including introductions of important personages attending, the contestants and their costumes—highly important items in the contest. Their fight statistics, records and titles won were given, as were many of their personal attributes and most important, the point system used to determine the winner was described in minute detail.

The contestants were fully and colorfully clothed, their costumes festooned with bangles and beads and sponsor’s ads, similar to NASCAR vehicles, all shimmering in the bright kleig lights. The only exception to being fully clothed was that a circular piece of each costume was missing at a strategic point, basically at the lower part of each contestant’s heine (my word, not the announcer’s). The challenger’s cutout circle was very basic and strictly functional, but the champion’s circle was festooned with ribbons that fluttered gaily at times during the competition, depending on the point value of his performance.

The point system included several judges, each scoring points separately and those points averaged to add to the total for each contestant. Points available ranged from a low of two points to a high of 15 points. The nomenclature of the two-pointer escapes me for now, but when I recover it —if I recover it—I will add it to this posting. The 15 pointer was called a triple flutter-blast, a triumphal feat equal to a grand-slam home run in major league baseball, a very rear—oops, I mean very rare feat that virtually always earned a standing applause from spectators. The only triple flutter-blast in this contest was generated by the champion, illustrating and emphasizing the talents that vaulted him—so to speak—to the world championship.

At several times during the fight, the judges found it necessary to examine the cutout to determine the presence of any wetness, the presence of which would nullify any points earned for that particular effort.

Okay, let me wrap this up—I’m sure you’ve deduced by now that The Battle of the Century was a f – – ting contest. I know, I know—I could have called it a flatulence contest, but somehow that word doesn’t ring true, so I used the word that punctuated—so to speak—the announcer’s account of the battle—I mean lots and lots and lots of times  during the contest. Please note that I have used it only once, and that time as an adjective in order to identify the nature of the contest—the addition of the gerund, the ing, was necessary in order to create the adjective. And also I camouflaged it by using a couple of dashes because I didn’t want to sully this posting by spelling out the word

The point score at the end—so to speak—placed the challenger ahead of the champion by only one point, and all the champion needed was a simple two-pointer to retain his title. He preened and pranced at a leisurely pace toward the post, bowing repeatedly to his cheering fans, waving and pointing and smiling and giving the thumbs-up signal. He confidently grasped the pole, squatted, took a deep breath and grunted, and a sound reverberated in the arena, a sound magnified by the sensors strategically placed near the post, a sound not heard even once during the competition—a sound that impinged on the hearing of judges, spectators and contestants alike.

Although everyone suspected the worst, there was a prolonged silence while the judges made a close-up visual examination of the cutout area in the champion’s costume, and at their signal the announcer shouted,

Oh, my God! The champion s – – t! He’s disqualified! We have a new world champion! Here, as in f – – ting, I have used dashes to avoid tarnishing my posting, my reputation and my future with Word Press.

From that point the record produced nothing but silence.

And then we played it over.

And over.

And over.

Both records were still being played by replacements when I exercised my right, after 15 months in Korea, to return to the land of big Post Exchanges and round doorknobs.

I must admit that I was glad the champion lost, if for no other reason for his taunting of the challenger when the contestants were first introduced to the spectators. When the champion stood to acknowledge the applause, he strolled over to the challenger, turned his back to him, bent over and expelled a single two-pointer then jauntily walked away, and the spectators roared their approval.

The announcer gushed thusly: Wow, I can’t believe that! What a champion, and what control! That was only a two-pointer, of course, but for the champion to waste even two points merely as a gesture of defiance, he has demonstrated his ultimate confidence in his ability to retain his world championship.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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1969 C-47 flight, Vietnam to Hong Kong, emergency landing at Kai Tai . . .

The information in italics below was extracted from an Internet site. For an interesting read of Hong Kong and its airport, click here.

“The government of Hong Kong said Tuesday that a second cruise terminal would be built at the southern tip of the old Kai Tak Airport runway. Closed in 1998 when a new airport was built on an outlying island, the Kai Tak runway was famous among pilots because it required them to navigate planes through mountains and high-rise buildings before landing on the needle-like strip, which led right into the eastern center of Victoria Harbor.”

hkfly4-thumb

Way back in 1969, early on a Saturday morning with the Vietnam conflict in full sway, a twin-engine cargo aircraft, a prop-driven C-47, produced by the Douglas Aircraft Corporation sometime in the late 1930s or early 1940s, was enroute to the city of Hong Kong, just off the coast c-47 douglas skytrainof mainland China. On board the aircraft were its crew and six US Air Force military personnel, all looking forward to an early arrival and an overnight stay in the city, with adequate time for shopping, dining and sightseeing before returning to Da Nang late on Sunday.

The flight was routine until the pilot put the aircraft into a gentle bank, made a 180-degree turn and headed back toward Da Nang. The loadmaster told the passengers that Hong Kong’s Kai Tak airport and the city were enveloped in dense fog with a low cloud overcast, and visibility was severely limited. Instrument landings were the only landings permitted, and those landings were permitted only for aircraft with a declared emergency—inbound aircraft with enough fuel remaining would be rerouted to other locations, and those without sufficient fuel would be allowed to make an instrument landing

More photos of Hong Kong and Kai Tak airport may be viewed at http://simonworld.mu.nu/archives/158834.php

Everyone on the flight was disappointed by the news, but all understood the difficulties of landing under such conditions—pilots would have to depend on instruments only until the runway became visible. Everyone accepted the fact that their weekend in Hong Kong was out—no shopping or dining or sightseeing—nothing to break the monotony of 12-hour work days in a six-day work week at Da Nang, and no chance to have one night of sleep without being disturbed by incoming rockets donated to the air base almost nightly by the enemy—the Viet Kong and North Vietnamese regulars.

The rockets had no particular targets—they were usually aimed by felling a tree across a pathway in the jungle, angling a rocket on the opposite side of the tree in the general direction of the air base, then touching it off. Sometimes the rocket fell short, sometimes it overshot, sometimes it exploded harmlessly in an open area, and sometimes it fell on a building, sometimes when it was occupied and sometimes when it was not occupied. The erratic nature of these rockets made them fairly effective in preventing and disturbing sleep, which perhaps may have been the enemy’s objective.

But I digress—back to the flight from Da Nang:

Sometime after the first 180-degree turn, the pilot executed a second 180-degree turn, and the loadmaster explained that the fog had lifted, at least enough to allow landings other than those under emergency conditions. This was good news for passengers and crew—the hoped-for weekend was again in sight.

The aircraft began its descent to line up with its approach to Hong Kong’s runway in a cloudless sky, but as altitude was lost visibility decreased rapidly to near zero—only the wingtips were visible in the dense fog until the plane broke out of the fog with the runway in sight. Also in sight were cargo ships and pleasure craft and Chinese junks, with the C-47 no more than one hundred feet or so above the junk’s tall masts.

Landings at Hong Kong’s old Kai Tak international airport were always tricky, even under perfect weather conditions. A significant portion of the runway extends into Victoria harbor on man-made land, created and brought to a level above high tide with rocks, then covered with dirt and concrete.

The reason for the double 180-degree turn? The pilot had computed the “point of no return’ for the flight, reversed direction away from Hong Kong and later again reversed direction, this time towards Hong Kong. He then requested landing instructions from the Hong Kong tower, and was told that only emergency landings were allowed.

The pilot declared an emergency, stating truthfully that he was past the point of no return—he did not have enough fuel for the return to Da Nang. And in truth it was a real emergency—the aircraft’s flight, from takeoff in South Vietnam to landing at Hong Kong, ran parallel to, and outside of, the international boundaries of North Vietnam and mainland China—any landing other than Hong Kong would have to be in North Vietnam or communist China—the only alternative would be to ditch the aircraft in the South China Sea.

Bummer.

Permission to land at Kai Tai airport was granted. The C-47 broke out of the overcast just above the masts of junks moored in Hong Kong’s harbor, and the fog had thinned enough for the landing to be accomplished without incident. The aircraft, its crew and its passengers with a load of goodies purchased in Hong Kong (bolts of fine silk, various electronics, jewelry, wooden carvings, etc.) returned to Da Nang on Sunday—the return flight was routine in every respect.

I feel qualified to report the details of that flight because I was on that aircraft—that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I made the weekend flight once more on the same aircraft, before my return to the states. The second flight was also harrowing, and is the subject of a future posting—for now I will only say that the second flight imbued me with a firm resolve to not make a third flight, fearing that the “third time’s charm” bromide would become “third time’s fatal.”

I’ll get back to you later with more details.

 

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