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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: October 17, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: October 17, 2018


















I volunteered for the Army on my birthday
They draft the white trash first, 'round here anyway
I done two tours of duty in Vietnam
I came home with a brand new plan
I take the seed from Columbia and Mexico
I just plant it up the holler down Copperhead Road
And now the D.E.A.'s got a chopper in the air
I wake up screaming like I'm back over there
I learned a thing or two from Charlie don't you know
You better stay away from Copperhead Road

-Steve Earle













10-31 the Golden Gate Bridge CHP code for a jumper



Audie Murphy was the most decorated soldier in World War II. He wasted 240 Nazis (& who knows how many of Hitler’s boy were disabled vets after Audie got through with them), was wounded 3 times, & by the end of the war he had been awarded 33 medals & awards including the Medal of Honor & 3 Purple Hearts. He was only 21 when the war ended.


When he got out of the military, success beckoned Murphy. He was on the cover of Life magazine, had parades held in his honor, & Jimmy Cagney got Murphy into acting where he made 44 films, he wrote country music songs - some were recorded by Harry Nilsson & Dean Martin, & he or a ghostwriter wrote a national bestseller, To Hell And Back, and starred in the film version.


He also slept with a loaded pistol under his pillow for the rest of his life.


Audie Murphy had what they called Shell Shock…how couldn’t he of? Today Shell Shock is known as PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - & Murphy was a haunted man who was hooked on sleeping pills & the booze he washed them down with.


He suffered his entire post-war life from depression, horrible & vivid nightmares, & insomnia. Eventually, he pissed away his fortune because of his gambling addiction.

He died in 1971 in a plane crash a broken man…mentally, physically, & financially.


Just about the time I was ready to join the military & eventually ship off for sunny Vietnam, the sparkling jewel of the China Sea.


It was early on Christmas morning & the fog over the San Francisco Bay was so thick that if you held your hand straight out in front of you it was hard to see your finger tips.


I walked along the pedestrian walkway confidently & without making any eye contact with the few other people I met on the walkway…not that they wanted to. When I got to the midway point of the bridge - the infamous light pole #69 - I stopped. I stood there & listened to the foghorns. There are two of them, one on each side of the bridge, & each with its own distinct tone, so that ships entering or leaving can navigate between the sounds.


More Golden Gate Bridge jumpers have jumped from light pole #69 than any other spot on the bridge. I laid my backpack against it with all my ID in it.


“Not thinking about taking the final jump are you?”


I turned to see a homeless dude who looked like like a typical Tenderloin District resident although that would be a hell of a walk from here. He was pushing a grocery cart packed with cans, bottles, garbage, old skin magazines, & various other shit & was adorned with a filthy, tattered American flag on a 5 foot pole but instead of a eagle or a gold ball sitting on top of the pole there was a battered silver rubber dildo slapping back & forth.


“I’m not thinking about it. I’m going to fucking do it!” I replied. “I was going to screw myself to death but I couldn’t find a woman who would agree to help a guy out.”


He was chuckling as he dug around in his cart & pulled out an unopened bottle of Night Train bum wine & handed it to me.


“If a man is going to jump off the double G he needs to have one last drink before he does it. Enjoy yourself & good luck!” He turned & pushed his car off into the fog.”


“Thanks.” I called out him. He raised his right hand in the air without turning around & gave me the finger. “Pussy!” He yelled. “Takes a real man to drink himself to death.”


I screwed off the cap & took a long pull. Jesus H. Christ! It tasted like Kool Aid laced with rubbing alcohol.


The railing to the bridge was only 4 feet high so it was no big deal to vault over the railing & land on the chord…a 32 inch beam where most of jumpers stand & ponder their fate before they either jump, change their minds on their own, are talked into climbing back over the rail by a cop or some other do-gooder, or they’re grabbed by a Good Samaritan & pulled over the rail to live to try it another day...or use a pistol next time.


I looked down at the dark water. It’s a 220 foot free fall. It’ll take about 4 seconds to hit the water & it’ll be at a screaming 75 miles per hour. I’m aware that it might not be an instant death. Most likely the impact will shatter a shitload of bones & organs & I’ll drown or die of hypothermia. But it’s a 98% chance that I won’t survive - pretty good odds - & I’m not worried that death will come slowly. I took a Quaalude & a hit of Owsley LSD...purely for fun…about an hour before I walked on to the bridge & I can feel the buzz coming on so maybe that would take care at least of some of the pain. I’ve probably endured worst pain in my life already…try getting shot in the face while you’re on fire…& enduring countless surgeries.


As I look down at the water I wondered what’s underneath the swirling surface. Supposedly Great White Sharks hunt in the bay. That would be excellent! Hit the water & before you can drown or die of shock an enormous shark has you for lunch & you disappear forever. Perfect way to go.


An Army Corps of Engineers boat passes by directly underneath me. It’s painted Army green which was the same color as the PBR (Patrol Boat Riverine in Navy lingo) I was stationed on during Vietnam.


The ‘Lude is making me a little wobbly so I sit down on the chord & think back to the worst day of my life. The day I shot at least 4 gooks..maybe more it all happened so fast...& one of them was probably only about 14 years old but I don’t give a shit. My entire crew was killed so fuck the little bastard.


I reach into my shirt pocket & pull out my pack of Old Golds & lit one with the Zippo that I had this old Papasan engrave the words “FUCK THE WORLD” on when I had first gotten to Saigon. After he was done he took me in the back of his shop where I nailed his daughter for about the same price as the lighter & the engraving.


We were dropping off a CIA operative at some small village up the Saigon River. There were 5 of us on board including the Spook - an Engineman Second Class, a Gunner’s Mate Third, a Seaman (myself) & the boat’s skipper…a surly but fun loving & hard drinking Boatswain’s Mate First Class…there had been a Chief in charge but he gotten stabbed repeatedly by a hooker with a butterfly knife & was shipped back to the World & a pissed off wife. The Spook was a tall guy with long hair & a beard in faded Levi cut-off shorts, jungle boots, & a grimy T-shirt with the sleeves cut off - exposing tattoo sleeves on both arms - with the 33 beer logo on it. 33 beer was brewed in Vietnam & boasted a taste of fermented piss. I could drink it but it had to be as cold as an ice cube & I had to be really stoned before I would open a bottle of it. We never called the Spook anything besides “Man,” “Dude,” or “Brother.” He never volunteered his name & we knew not to ask.


The PBR was pulled up to the end of a rickety floating pier. The Spook, the boat captain - who only allowed us to call him “Boats,” & the Engineman who’s nickname was “The Cocksman” because of the number of Vietnamese whores he had banged. …the number was way over 100 & climbing - he wrote each encounter in vivid detail in a little green notebook he always kept in a cargo pocket...had gone into the village to pick up some diesel fuel, mail, & supplies. The CIA man had gone along to gather some intel (I assumed) & to get a blowjob. He told me he would only get his knob polished from the local talent since he had a wife back in the world & he always held his pistol at his side just in case the whore decided to bite his crank off…which was not an urban legend. When he got off the boat he never said if he would be coming back on board or not & I didn’t ask. We’d find out when the time came.


That left just me & the Gunner’s Mate who was manning the 2 forward guns in a shielded tub to guard the boat. The guns were .50 caliber machine guns that could really bring the fireworks when things got hot or when Boats was hungover & irritable & would have him open up on a rice boat to sink it rather than search it…the rule was “If Boats is puking then that fucking boat is sinking!” I was packing a .45 pistol & a shotgun loaded with alternating shells of slugs & buckshot.


The Gunner’s Mate went by the name of “Apollo” because of his massive size. He was a black guy who looked like he had been chiseled out of black granite. Malcom X was tattooed on one bicep & former heavyweight champ Sonny Liston on the other. He had gotten them done on R & R in Honolulu by the famous Sailor Jerry…both tattoos were incredibly detailed…like pieces of art.


Our mission on the river was simple: Search & Destroy! Or a combination of both but usually destroy.


During my senior year in high school I was disinherited by my family. My parents were both straight as an arrow, church going, hardcore Lutherans. By my senior year I had discovered the joys of marijuana, ice cold beer, hot young beaver, & rock & roll…mainly Led Zeppelin & Black Sabbath. My hair had grown long & the clothes I wore consisted of concert or beer shirts, beat up Levis, & motorcycle boots. So there was a bit of a disconnection between the other family members & myself.


I knocked up a sophomore early in the school year. I sure as shit didn’t want to be a father & her parents sure as shit didn’t want me as a son in law. Her Dad flew her to Hawaii & paid for the abortion & then demanded that my father pay half for the procedure. My parents lived like paupers but they had very some serious jack put away (which I lost any hope of getting once I was disinherited) & at first my father wanted to bargain his end down. When her Dad pointed out that since Hawaii was the only legal state to get an abortion, he was getting off easy not asking to pay half the air fare & hotel bill. So my father grudgingly relented & paid his share & I climbed higher up on the shit list.


Two months before my 18th birthday, high as hell on Mexican brick weed, I was pulled over on my Honda for driving after midnight with my lights off. The cops found 3 quarters of a joint - which was a serious thing back then - on me, but luckily I had only drank 2 beers so I beat the sobriety test. My parents let me spend the night in he local jail which was no big deal in a town of 20,000. It wasn’t San Quentin..mostly drunks sleeping it off & other minor offenses…so I didn’t get my ass beaten or my shit pushed in.

I didn’t have a previous record so my father’s lawyer cut a deal with the Judge (who he golfed with almost every weekend) where they would drop the weed charge if I kept my nose clean until my birthday. After that I would have to join a branch of the military on some sort of delayed enlistment program. That was cool with me. I wasn’t going anywhere in Albert Lea, Minnesota except possibly county jail or state prison. I decided on the Navy, those ships go to some countries with unbelievable weed! I didn’t think that sailors could get stationed in Vietnam. I was deeply fucking wrong on that one.


It was so fucking foggy on the bridge I must have sat there on the suspension chord for at least two hours before anyone noticed me. I could hear people walk by talking but I couldn’t see them & they couldn’t see me. Or they saw me & just plain didn’t give a shit. One guy walked by & let go with such a loud fart I think people over in Oakland might have heard it. I smoked a joint & heard someone laugh & shout out “Jesus Christ! Some crazy fucking bridge worker must be off catching a buzz.”


I wouldn’t be the first veteran to jump off the bridge. In fact, 3 months after the GGB opened back in 1937, a WWI veteran named Harold Wobbler jumped off the bridge. He was both the 1st veteran & the 1st known jumper. Good old Harold, who under psychiatric care for shell shock, walked out halfway & told some some tourist “This is far as I go” & jumped. I bet it freaked the fuck out of that tourist. It either ruined his vacation or gave him a story that he told until the day that he died.

Harold’s body was never recovered & as I looked down through the lighter fog below the bridge at the dark waters I wondered if somehow or someway I might wind up meeting Mr. Wobbler. But I think that was probably a combination of the Quaalude, the acid, & the joint talking…but then again bad Karma was following me like a psychotic bloodhound. For all I knew - I was the reincarnated Harold Wobbler.


Apollo & I had burned a joint of Buddha Thai as soon as Boats, The Cocksman, & Mr. CIA were out of sight. The whole crew got high & Boats didn’t care but he just didn’t want to see it. Apollo was a racist son of a bitch. But he was an equal opportunity racist…he hated every race beside African-Americans (& probably most of them)…except for the crew, he loved the crew. If anyone started something in a bar with one of the crew the next thing they knew a giant black dude had just knocked them on their ass & it had taken just one punch & that it was over - I never saw anyone get up off the floor & take on Apollo…unless they didn’t want their teeth any longer. Boats was Chicano, Cocksman was white, & I was a fellow honky. But like I said…Apollo was color blind when it came to the crew.


I was standing up on the bow of the boat & Apollo was sitting down in the gun turret. We both were shirtless & wearing cutoff fatigue shorts. I was packing a .45 & the butt of my shotgun was resting on my hip. I was wearing aviator sunglasses & I felt like John Fucking Wayne, which I told Apollo.


He snorted & took a swig off his can of Budweiser. “You high as a motherfucker, Stoney. Plus, I heard that John Wayne was a closet fag That cowboy loves to smoke poles & take it in the ass from what I hear.”


My first 6 months on the boat I was called “New Fucking Guy,” “Dipshit,” “Fuckstick,” “NFG,” or just “New Guy” for short. My love of reefer eventually gave Boats (who gave out the nicknames) the inspiration to bestow me my crew name & I loved it. Stoney! I had known River sailors who were nicknamed “Shit For Brains,” “Ass Bandit,” Monkey Humper,” or worse. So I felt extremely lucky with my name.


I leaned back & laughed. “John Wayne a homo? Where the hell did you get that one? The Duke would kick your ass if he heard you say that, pilgrim.” I had a shit John Wayne impression.


He gave me a grin, “I hear things…he’s a turd burglar…& that old bastard couldn’t kick my ass in his wildest fucking dreams.”


I felt the floating dock move. 4 young Vietnamese men were walking down the pier. They were holding the normal shit that the villagers peddle to us when we’re tied up at a dock. 33 beer, monkey meat on a stick, cigarettes, weed, necklaces, candy, their sisters, & other trinkets.


“Watch these zipperheads, Stoney! I’m picking up a vibe here.


I dropped my shotgun down & racked one into the chamber to warn them.


“Woolworths doesn’t do night bank drops. They just lock it up in the safe & one of their dipshits runs it across the street in the morning.” Dan…his nickname was Dirty Dan…handed the joint across the cable spool we used as a table. His old man was the manager of Woolworths & handled all the accounting. He was also one of the biggest drunks in Albert Lea which was fucking impressive!


I took a long hit & coughed…fucking ditch weed!…out a question. “Why don’t they do nights drops & where did you buy this shitty weed?”


“From our new drummer, he was so grateful that we let him join the band that he gave me half an ounce & it is shit but you still get high. Smoke too much you get a headache. Anyway, by 5 o’clock the old man has the shakes so bad he hits the bottle at work. Vodka. But that’s just to tide him over. When it’s quitting time he throws all the cash & receipts in the safe & heads for the Aragon to pound shots & check out those ugly fucking farmer girl strippers. He practically kicks the employees out the door so he can lock up. So he waits until the next morning to do whatever he does there with the cash.”


Dirty Dan & his brother, Vic, had a band called The Dangerous Dirty Dan Band. They were pretty good. You were never going to see them on the Ed Sullivan show but they played a lot of gigs…school functions like the prom, VFW, American Legion, weddings, big parties held out on farms…that kind of shit. They were punk before punk, especially Vic, he could really shred.


“This Saturday night is the night to do it. The old man has been on a bender this whole week up in Minneapolis. He went up their for a big Woolworths meeting & all those old farts do is try to hit every strip club & titty bar in the metro area. He left his assistant manager - that big fat bitch - Lois Adams in charge. She can’t balance her fucking check book she’s so stupid, so he’s had her put the cash from every day this week in the safe. There’s a shitload of money in there. Has to be. Have you seen how many retards shop in there buying their treasures? It’s guaranteed…& the old man doesn’t get home until Sunday.”


“You want to try to crack a safe?”


“Won’t have to crack it. I found his spare keys & the combination!”


A warm LSD rush ran through my body. It felt so good I laid down on my side on the bridge chord. The metal on the side of my face felt so nice & cool that I dozed off for a minute.


When I opened my eyes I still couldn’t see straight ahead because of the thick fog so I couldn’t see Alcatraz, but I knew it was out there. Just like I knew that if the Feds & my hometown cops ever got a lead on me that they were going to stick my ass in a cell & throw away the goddamn key. It wouldn’t be the long closed Alcatraz but it would definitely be either Portsmouth Naval Prison or Leavenworth & that would drive me even more nuts than I already was.


I sat up & fired up a joint & washed it down with the dregs from the bottle of Night Train. Night Train! That’s what they called Sonny Liston. Night Train! Apollo had Liston tattooed on his bicep. The things that LSD will make you remember. Time really is a flat circle…I think Nietzsche said that. Tossing the bottle off the bridge, I stood up on shaky legs, unzipped, & took a long 220 foot psychedelic multicolored leak that was quite beautiful.


Looking down as I pissed I could see Frank Morris & the Anglin brothers - John & Clarence - paddling furiously under the bridge on their homemade raft made out of raincoats & glue. It looked they were only twenty feet or so underneath where I was standing. A fluorescent purple shark was following them.


“Watch out for the shark!” I yelled down but they didn’t look up.


Escaping Alcatraz! Disappearing from the face of the earth. The assholes at the FBI couldn’t find one piece of evidence so they eventually wrapped up their investigation by simply saying, - “Fuck it! They drowned.”


Frank, Clarence, & John paddled under the bridge & out of my sight & vanished forever. Alive or dead, they went out on their own terms.


Just like I was going to fucking do any minute now!


The first incoming shot hit the hull of the boat. An old gook…who looked like he had personally known Confucius…had stepped out of a mango tree patch that was just off to the left of the pier. By the sound you could tell it was an AK-47 he was firing. I couldn’t believe the old son of a bitch had the strength to hold the rifle much less shoot it. Almost instantaneously I could hear automatic weapons fire off in the village.  


“Waste those motherfuckers, Stoney!”


Apollo had turned the .50 caliber guns on the sniper & was unloading on him & blew him back against a mango tree where he was pinned like a paper range target. Apollo kept firing & the old zipperhead & the tree literally came apart in pieces. I had immediately shouldered my shotgun & fired at the four dinks walking down the pier with their trinkets for sale. I felt a shot whiz by me from somewhere.


My first shot was a slug & it caught the guy holding the case of 33 beer right in the mouth & his head burst like a rotten peach falling from a tall tree. Two of them were facing each other & were frantically trying to light a glass gallon Molotov cocktail..the rag was already lit & I shot the VC…once you started shooting at an aggressive Vietnamese they instantly attained VC status…right in the kidney with a buckshot round - he screamed & dropped. His buddy took a slug that hit him in the throat & knocked him flat on his back…blood was spurting straight up in the air from his throat like a fountain.


But before I could get the last one standing, he had pulled out an old Russian revolver, & as Apollo was rotating the guns towards the pier…shot Henry (Apollo’s given name) right in the side of the head! When he turned to face me I practically took his head off with a round of buckshot. As he fell forward he fired his pistol…had to have been on pure instinct…& the bullet hit me on the side of my right cheekbone & exited out through my ear - knocking me on my ass!


I got up & ran to Henry, but out of the corner of my eye I saw the kidney shot gook had somehow gotten up to his knees & overhand toss the Molotov cocktail that busted open & burst into flames…engulfing the bow of the boat, Henry, & myself in flames. I put the palm of my hands…the backs of them were on fire…over my eyes to try to prevent my eyes & eyelids from burning & dove headfirst into the river.


Dirty Dan & I shared a rat’s nest of an apartment that was over the old VFW. My parents had given me the boot when I was 18 so I was finishing high school & working at the local head shop slash music store while awaiting the Navy. Dan had graduated the year prior & was the manager of the shop & of course, he was the also the lead guitarist & vocalist for the Dangerous Dirty Dan Band.


He had laid out on the cigarette burned & wine stained rug the tools for the great Minnesota Woolworths burglary we were about to commit. There was a hammer, crowbar, sledgehammer, blow torch, & a chisel.


“Why the fuck do we need this shit? You have the extra set of keys & the combination. It should be just in & out.”


Dan was busy snorting a line of biker crank & he looked up from the mirror he was cutting another line on. “If we just open the safe & take the the cash the fucking cops are going to want to know who has the combination. The only people who work there who know the combination is my Dad & fat ass Lois. So they’ll think it was either one of them or someone who had access to the combination & the keys. Which is me, even though the old man doesn’t know that I knew where he stashed them & I don’t want the cops to start sniffing around me. We’ll open the safe, take the cash, & then beat the safe up to make it look like we broke into it. His office has a frosted window in it so we’ll break that & bust up the entrance door with the crowbar to make it looked like we jimmied our way in. I hate my old man…God, he’s such a prick…but I don’t want the cops to think he did it. Be weird to think of your own Dad getting cornholed up at Stillwater. If we’re lucky they’ll lock up that retard Lois over at the St. Peter nuthouse.”


“Where did he hide them.” I leaned over & snorted up a line & wondered at the same time what the ingredients where in the shit I was inhaling .


“He’s got an old roll top desk that’s got a little secret hidden drawer in it. I was actually looking for some cash but I found the combination & the keys. When he goes on his business trips to Minneapolis my Mom always goes down to Iowa to visit her relatives. I know where they hide the house key so after they both left I went over about two in the morning & grabbed ‘em.”


Owsley acid & a Quaalude is quite the the combination! I was extremely mellow yet tripping my ass off at the same time. I couldn’t believe that no one had seen me out there on the suspension chord but the fog kept rolling in thick & it was Christmas. I was surprised that I didn’t have someone out their to join me since it was the holidays.


I had been laying on my back just looking straight up into the deep fog & watching a swarm of colorful bats swirling around above me…I had just read Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas …when I heard the roar coming from dual Detroit Diesel engines…the engines of a River Patrol boat. I sat up & looked down at San Francisco Bay & saw my old PBR racing at full speed heading inland.


“Boats! Apollo! Cocksman!” I yelled down toward the water as the PBR disappeared into the fog.


To meet the demands of the court, I had enlisted in the Navy just after my 18th birthday. I didn’t want to sleep on the ground, dig foxholes, eat out of a can, & shit in my helmet so at least in the Navy I’d get 3 hots & a cot. I wanted to get stationed on a ship in the Pacific so I could hit the good ports…lots of bars, whores, & access to good drugs. I’d find out what “A” training school I would be going to once I got to boot camp in San Diego.


Boot camp had only 2 weeks to go when I sat down in front of the “Career Counselor.” He looked down at his roster of sailors & the schools available & without looking up at me announced “Cook school here in San Diego. After that, most likely a ship.” He lit up a Camel & leaned back in his chair, “Yes or No.”


“That’s my choices? Fuck that noise!” I stupidly blurted out, “I don’t wanna be a fucking cook!”


“Excellent choice! Yea! Fuck being a cook! You’re ass would always smell like french fries.” He grinned. “We need seaman for the Brown Water Navy. You’ll go to Virginia for your training.”


“What’s the Brown Water Navy, Sir?” Notice I added a “Sir” this time around.


“River Patrol Boats. Vietnam. You’re going where the bullets are flying, sailor. Fuck that cook shit! You’re going to defend your country from the heathens of Communism.” He threw my file on a pile. “Now hit the fucking bricks, dickweed. I have to take a dump.”


It didn’t take much to break it into the Woolworths building since we had the key. We had parked the car in a parking lot that was behind a building just across the street. We had timed the break in to coincide with the end time of the movie at the Rivoli Theater which was showing the “scandalous” film - Midnight Cowboy. The movie ended at about 11 so we entered the building at 9:30 to give us plenty of time to get into the safe & then we’d simply blend in with the movie crowd & walk to the car. Just two guys going to their car with one carrying a gym bag.


The back entrance was in an alley, so we walked up the 3 flights of a rickety & rusty staircase to the office floor door. Dan slipped the key in & took a smaller key & opened up the alarm box. The red light was flashing but you had close to a minute to simply flick the toggle switch to “off.” If it had gone off, round iron alarm bells on the side of the building would have started ringing. We walked down the hallway & Dan opened his father’s office door.

“Don’t forget that we need to break the door window when we leave.” He whispered to me as he walked to the safe & spun the dial & entered the combination. On the first try, Dan grabbed the handle, pushed down & the door swung open wide. There were six canvas money bags laying on the bottom! We opened them all up & grabbed all the paper money & checks…those we’d burn later…& tossed the paper into the gym bag while leaving the change.


Once that was done I pulled down all the window shades & Dan fired up the torch & scorched the hell out of the safe’s dial. He then stepped back & banged on the dial with the sledgehammer until it was busted to shit. We walked back out on to the stairway landing & stuck the crowbar & chisel into the door frame to make it look like it had been jimmied. Then we went back into the office & waited until the movie ended & the crowd exited.


I looked at the wide open safe & saw something white sitting on the top shelf. I pulled it out & saw that it was a fucking Klan robe! In Albert Lea, Minnesota! Looking farther back on the shelf I spied a membership ledger of some sort & about shit when I saw the names inside! There were also a couple photos in there with Lois posing for some beaver shots. I tossed them back in the safe like I had just dipped my hand in dogshit.


When I regained my senses I found myself laying on the dock with the CIA Spook leaning over me & pouring river water - out of a fish bucket that must have been on the pier - all over my upper body.


“You’re pretty fucking crispy in parts but I’ve seen worse. You’re one lucky motherfucker. You’re going to live. You were holding on to the end of that pier for dear life when I got here.”


“Where’s Boats & Cocksman?” I whispered hoarsely.


“Dead! We got ambushed in the village by about five or six gooks . Cocksman took the first round right in the chest but your Skipper took out a couple before he caught a couple of rounds…one was a head shot. I finished off the rest of the cocksuckers & I dropped any villager I saw on my way coming back here.” He paused for a moment. “I’m sorry. They were all good men.”


“What do we do now?” I croaked out.


“I’ve already called in the dustoff for us. I grabbed the radio off the boat & pushed it off & away from the pier before it blows. The son of a bitch was really smoking, I was lucky to get the radio. If I had gotten back here a few minutes later we wouldn’t be having this little chat.” I could smell the boat burning.


“Apollo? Henry?”


“He didn’t make it either. Now listen. Some Air Cav choppers are going to come in & light this place up before the dustoff so we have to stay down. After we get on the chopper they’re going to come in & blow this shithole to hell & back. Snake & Nape. There won’t be a man, woman, or child dink left standing when it’s all over. You know who I work for. The chopper is going to fly us to an intelligence operations outpost about 50 klicks from here.”


The pier rocked back & forth when the PBR exploded! I tried to sit up but the Spook gently pushed me back down. “Stay down! I can hear the choppers. It’s about to get red fucking hot!”


A huge seagull landed on the chord & walked straight over to me & sat down. I thought I was hallucinating it but when I set my hand very gently on its back it gave a loud chirp which freaked the shit out me & I pulled my hand back. It glanced at me out of the corner of its eye & settled back down.


Back in Nam when I was on the boat, the Skipper loved seagulls for some reason…I never quite understood why because all they did was shit all over everything…& when the Cocksman demolished one standing on a pier with his shotgun, Boats got so fucking mad that he made Cocksman scrape the barnacles off the boat. It’s usually at least a 2 man job if you pull the boat out of the water but Boats made him don scuba gear & clean it while it was in the water. I lost count of how many oxygen tanks he went through.


“Is that you, Boats?” I asked the gull. In Vietnam I had become a follower of Zen & Taoism (There had to be more to life than this steaming pile of monkeyshit) & I believed somewhat in reincarnation…but the seagull didn’t respond. Unless standing up & taking a greasy crap was some sort of response. In my current mental state - it was a sign.


I looked down between my legs & noticed that the fog was starting to lift. The acid was making the water swirl with with these wild, vivid fluorescent colors & in the middle of it a sea lion’s head popped up. He dipped back just barely under the surface & started to swim in circles…first slow…& with each revolution it took it picked up speed. Within seconds it was going so fast that it looked like a circle of fire. Suddenly the seal shot out of the circle & headed out to sea looking like a torpedo trailing flames. I watched as the ring of fire opened up on one side leaving a bright Enso…a symbol of enlightenment & strength in Zen.


I definitely took that as THE sign it was time to go & I fired up my last joint that I had been saving for this moment. I had smoked about half of it when…“Hey! What are you doing down there?”… startled the seagull who squawked & flew off. “Goodbye, Boats! I’ll meet up with you later!” I called out to the gull before I turned around.


There was a man in a suit standing there. “You scared off my friend, asshole & yes…if it’s any goddamn business of yours…I’m getting ready to jump…so fuck off!”


The gunships came roaring in & shot the holy shit out of the village for about fifteen minutes. Within seconds the dustoff landed on the dirt road at the foot of the bridge while two choppers hovered above it providing cover. Two soldiers came running down the dock with a stretcher. A soldier running point stopped & put a round in the head of every zip that was laying on the pier before he waved the stretcher over.


“I’m gonna hit you with some morphine & then we’re going to put you on the stretcher & get you the fuck out of here before this bamboo turd town is bombed into the stone age! You just hang on, sailor, we’re going to have you in a nice warm bed in a few minutes.” I felt the sting of the morphine syrettes as the medic poked them into my legs. They lifted me onto the stretcher & the four of them practically ran down the pier & lifted me into the awaiting chopper.


I felt a pleasant warmth flowing through my body like the opium I had smoked with a beautiful hooker with one tit…she’d lost the other one in an air strike in her former village when she was a teenager… in Saigon who had shown me sex acts that I didn’t even think were legal…definitely not in Minnesota. Other than the one tit she was really built & was pretty as hell. The face of the Spook appeared above me as I heard the sound of jets followed by tremendous explosions as the Snake & Nape incinerated the village & its remaining occupants.


“We’ll be back at base camp in no time. You just lay back & enjoy the buzz.”


I felt my eyes flutter & then it was nothing but darkness.


“6 grand in 5s, 10s, 20s, & 50s & about 200 & 50 bucks in singles.” Dan slid 3 grand across the table to me. “I figure we’ll use the singles for your going away blow out on Thursday night..hit some strip clubs, buy some hash, get a little blow or crank, maybe get a blow job from one of the strippers, make a night of it, sailor.”

I was wrapping the cash in plastic & duct tape & then sliding it into a PVC tube that I was going to cap off & bury somewhere that I could remember & pick it up when I came home on leave…didn’t seem prudent or wise to have 3 grand in cash on me when I went to San Diego for boot camp. “So tell me again how your Dad & Lois got arrested.”


Dan fired up a one hit bong & coughed out a laugh. “The old fucker called Lois & had her meet him behind the Woolworths probably less than a couple hours after we had been there.


“That was close!” I was paging through the Klan ledger & looking at the all the fucking names of the people I knew in town. Mayors, former mayors, cops, the police chief, store managers, mechanics, the guy who owned the ambulance service. From the ledger it appeared that my hometown was the HQ for the KKK for the state of Minnesota. I rolled the ledger up & slid it in the PVC pipe with the cash.


“They were both so shitfaced they wouldn’t have noticed that we were even there. Fat-ass Lois has been in & out of rehab & AA a half a dozen times but it never took. She’s blotto on gin every night & all day Sunday. Shit! That drunk old fatty has even been up at Hazelton & they couldn’t cure her. They were so fucked up that they didn’t even notice the hole in the glass or that the safe was open.” We had closed the door to the safe but left the latch open.


“They went straight to that fold out couch in the far corner & fucked like rabbits until they passed out. When morning came my Mom called the cops when the old man hadn’t shown up & they found him & Lois buck naked on that ratty old fold out. Jesus Christ! What a sight that must have been! Then the cops saw the safe open & all the cash gone & hauled their asses in for questioning. They’re both out now. No charges but the cops have found shit for leads…the pigs in this town couldn’t find their asses with both hands.”


I had no idea how long I was out. But when I came to it was in a sweet air conditioned space & I was laying in a real bed with clean sheets. There was an IV hooked to me & my body was smeared with some kind of medicinal smelling gel. Whatever dope they were giving me was working…I wasn’t in any pain & had a good buzz going…but when I looked down I could see that my torso, arms, & hands looked like they been gone over with a flame thrower. I wasn’t ready to see what my face looked like.


Moving my head slowly I scanned the room I was in. There were two other bunks but they were empty. I was in some sort of small medical facility & I about shit the sheets when the door opened & a Vietnamese man walked in.


He smiled at me. “You’re awake! Good! We’ve kept you in a induced semi-coma until you stabilized & we discontinued the medication this morning.” Speaking it all in perfect English. Sitting next to me he checked my pulse, heart, lungs, shined a little flashlight in my eyes, & then examined my burns. “Your front upper torso, including your face & arms have suffered burns that fall between 2nd & 3rd degree. Once you’re totally stabilized we’ll chopper you out to Saigon where I expect they’ll probably start prepping you for the initial skin grafts or they may simply evaluate you & you’ll be shipped stateside immediately for comprehensive surgery & therapy”


“What’s my face look like?” I whispered through burned & chapped lips.


He held a cup of ice water with a straw up to my mouth & I took a long drink. “Better than the rest of your upper body but I think with the proper skin grafts & some solid overall medical care you’re going to be all right. There is going to be some skin discoloration & scarring but you’re alive, you’re young, & you have a long life ahead of you.” He patted my leg & stood up & stuck a syringe in the IV bag. “This is for your pain.”


“Where am I & who are you?”


He opened the door. “I’ll let your friend who brought you in to explain all of that. Get some rest.” He stopped before he closed the door & stuck his head back in. “By the way, I was born in Seattle & I went to UCLA for medical school….so I’m on your side.”


The businessman that had I told to fuck off must have either freaked out when I yelled at him & just left without telling anyone of authority that there was someone hanging out on the chord of the bridge…who said he was going to jump… or he just flatass didn’t give a hot shit & left & went about his day.


About a 25 yards down the walkway a Rastafarian had set up his 5 gallon plastic bucket drum set & was performing a hell of a rendition of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida that would have made Iron Butterfly proud. That song was near & dear to my was the tune that was on the radio right after I had lost my virginity in my Mom’s old Rambler as I lay half naked in the backseat toking on a joint. Luckily for her the song wasn’t playing when we were actually bone dancing. I had earlier taken 3 White Cross & screwing to that song on speed would have probably produced a rhythm that would have either worn her raw or produced multiple orgasms that would have left her a shattered wreck.


About a dozen seagulls…I didn’t see Boats with them… had landed in the area where I was sitting & were walking around or over me as if I was already a ghost. I was flicking my Zippo & staring into the flame. Although it had happened years before I got to Nam, I could a tiny version of Thic Quang Duc in the flame…the monk who set himself on fire in protest of prosecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government - the same pricks we were over there fighting for & that I had gotten charbroiled for.. I was mesmerized by the flame & then…


“Sir! What are you doing there? You’re not allowed over on that side. How about you climb back over the rail & we can talk about this?”


Snapping the Zippo shut, I turned around. The businessman was standing there with a chubby but cute little blonde in a National Park uniform.


“Hey, how ya doing? Well, aren’t you just the sweetest sight for sore eyes.”


She smiled. “Please, sir. Could you come back over the safety rail so we can talk?”


I had really had no family to stay with…since I was now #1 on their shit list… so when I graduated from boot camp I got a cab at the Greyhound station & headed for the place I had shared with Dan. When I knocked on the door, I was surprise to have it answered by his brother, Vic. Not so much that Vic was there but his hair was cut like a Marine with a flat-top slash Mohawk, he was wearing lived-in leather pants, combat boots, & a stain covered white Country Joe & The Fish t-shirt covered by a battered leather jacket.


“Christ on a dinner cracker! Do you look different!”


He stuck his head out the door, looked both ways & pulled me inside. “Me & the band have been touring all summer. We’ve been listening to a lot of Zappa, New York Dolls, Stooges Captain Beefheart, MC5 …changed our whole fucking style…we play faster, harder, louder, & use a lot more feedback. Even changed our name…No Fucks Given….we had some solid bookings up & down the west coast. East coast is next.”


“No one has any problems with the name?”


“Nope. We just book ourselves under NFG…but our fans know our real name.”


“Congrats, man. Sounds like you guys are on the way to the big time. Hey, where’s Dan.”


Vic stepped closer to me. “Dan is in Los Angeles. Hiding out. He got shitfaced one night & confided in one of the strippers after a hummer at The Aragon that he had been the one that broke into Woolworths. I guess she got pissed when Dan told her to fuck herself when she wanted to get paid for the blowjob session. Turns out she’s an informant whose been banging a local cop that she sells speed to & she dropped a dime on Dan. Another one of the girls heard about it & told Dan, so he jumped in his Pinto & headed for L.A.”


“Did my name get mentioned.” I nervously asked.


“He’d never do that. But if I were you, I grab that package of yours & hit the fucking road before the cops know that you’re in town...just to be safe. They know that you & Dan are tight. I’d fucking guarantee that they’re gonna want to talk to you if they know you’re in town.”


We had boarded a boat that the dinks considered a river freighter. It was a one hull wooden boat powered by a long tailed outboard motor. The damn things could haul anything from rice, bricks, timber, & weapons…which is why we had stopped it. There were two men & a older woman onboard. When I stepped on to the boat with the Spook the younger of the two men started jabbering away at me - he was really going on about something - so I had kicked him ever so gently in the groin & pushed him overboard. When he tried to climb back on the boat I had stuck my .45 into his forehead & gestured for him to stay in the water & hold on to the side.


The Spook - who was really pissed for some reason - was in the open sided cabin arguing loudly in Vietnamese with the old man when the Spook…obviously tired of hearing the old guy’s bullshit…pushed him roughly to the deck by his face. The agent had gone back to pulling something out of a big teak chest in the cabin when the old man - he was beyond fucking old…more like Biblical ancient - stood back up brandishing a rusty machete!


I zeroed in on his head & blew his brains all over the deck & then turned & shot the younger man who was climbing back onboard twice - once in the ribcage that dropped him back into the water & then in the head. The shrieking woman had put her hands in the air but Cocksman unloaded a full clip from his M16 into her.


Apollo blasted & tore up the deck & the hull of the boat with the .50s & we turned over a 5 gallon can of gas that was on the boat & tossed 3 Willie Pete grenades on to it as we pulled away. It was quite a spectacular sight when it blew.


I was sitting back in the stern of the boat with the Spook smoking a number (while Boats caught a nap) & playing with 2 tiger cubs. That was what had sent the agent off on the old man. The evil little fuckers were either going to make them into wine, use their bones to make glue, or sell their heads, paws, & pelts for decoration. Some of the dinks thought that you could make an elixir out of tiger cubs that would give you hard wood…which you might need if your wife or girlfriend was an avid betel nut chewer that left their teeth either a black or a bloody color. Hideous!


As he gave one a good head scratching he looked up grinning at me, “Every time I catch a gook that killed a tiger… I make him wish that he had never been born. I know a Buddhist monastery where we can drop them off. They’ll take care of them. I can score some good weed from the monks too. I guess I owe you that. That was one helluva head shot!”


I woke with a start! Breathing hard & covered in sweat I was starting up at the ceiling. That dream haunted me. I could still see the back of that old man’s head coming apart & the helpless look that the dink in the water had given me before I sent him on to his next life.


The smell of opium was in the air. I turned my head gently to the right & saw the Spook puffing on an opium pipe. He stood up & walked over to me & put the pipe in my mouth. “Take a couple of hits off this shit & you won’t need all those painkillers.”


He sat down next to my bunk. “The tiger cubs are doing fine. The doctor that’s been taking care of you just got back from the monastery & he said they’re growing like hell.”


“How did you know I was dreaming about that day?”


“You were talking in your sleep. Don’t worry, I get those kinds of dreams too. Part of our job.”


The opium hit me hard & fast…my head felt like a lead weight it was so heavy as I laid my head back down. “Man, I am fucked up!” I laughed.


He pulled the chair closer to me. “There are 2 things I need to tell you. Number 1…thanks for saving my ass that day. I had no idea that old motherfucker was going to come up swinging…I should never have turned my back on him - total fucking rookie mistake...& number 2…you’re wanted for questioning by the cops in your hometown back in the world.”


After Vic gave me his warning to bust ass out of town I followed his advice & did so. I didn’t have the time…or the urge to take the risk… to go out to where I had buried the cash from the burglary. I had changed into civilian clothes & Vic had driven me straight back to the Greyhound station. I jumped on the first bus back to Minneapolis, spent the night at the Thunderbird Hotel & flew to my PBR training site in Virginia.


I had completed training & had been in Nam for almost six months when I got my 1st letter since I had joined the Navy . It was from Vic:


Bad news, dude. Dan came back from L.A. a couple of weeks ago. He was strung the fuck out on heroin & speed & it sounded like he had crossed some bad sons of bitches out there. He was in the middle of kicking the habit when the cops showed up & picked him up for questioning. They cut him loose but from what I understand after they replaced the old safe they never disposed of it. Too fucking heavy! It’s been sitting in the basement of the Woolworths building & the cops are dusting it for prints. He’s my brother & I have to have his back but being in the middle of kicking smack & being questioned by the cops? Who knows what he could have said & didn’t even realize it? I just wanted to warn you so you could adjust your future plans accordingly. Be safe, brother. Watch your back!




A couple of SF cops had shown up & were discussing the situation with the National Park Service cutie. Not giving a shit what they were talking about I had become enthralled by the Rastafarian pounding out the extended drum solo on In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida - watching the musical notes…which were a fiery red…rise up from his “drum” kit & sail off in the wind. He started in on the vocals:


Oh, won't you come with me
And take my hand
Oh, won't you come with me
And walk this land
Please take my hand


Mesmerized, I began to walk down the chord to get closer to him. I could see the words to the song flowing out of his mouth in a vivid pink stream.


“Sir! Please stay here! It’s very dangerous to be walking on the chord. Please stay so we can talk to you.” In a way I felt sorry for the park ranger & I turned to tell her that although I appreciated her concern but that my mind had long ago been made up…but not in the way it came out of my unfiltered mind.


“If you come down here & take that uniform off…well…maybe we can work something out. Do you wear black panties & bra? Or do you go total commando? I really like that.” I paused & laughed hysterically. “Shit! I’m sorry! I didn’t really mean to say that. That came out totally wrong.”


She laughed at smiled at me. “Now you know I can’t come over the rail even if I wanted to. My name is Patti. What’s yours?”


I blew her a kiss. “I know that you’re just trying to do your job but my mind was made up a long time ago. Thank you for the effort, Patti. I really do appreciate it. But I have to go.”


When I turned back to walk over to the drummer my feet shot out from under me on a gooey pile of gull shit & I bashed the back of my head on the suspension chord knocking me senseless & I began my free fall down to the dark waters of San Francisco Bay at literally break neck speed.


I was out of my bunk & the Spook was walking me slowly around the compound. There were people in green & tiger stripe fatigues but there were no markings of any kind on them. Some of them had long hair, beards, & were sporting earrings.


“I reported the whole crew as KIA. That should buy you some time.”


“Time for what?”


“There’s a warrant out for your arrest. Some B & E charge back in your hometown. You were going to be picked up by NIS when your boat got back to your home-port. But I can take care of that. Let me put it to you straight…you don’t look like you did before & your hands are badly burned but some of the fingerprints are still slightly legible. The doc here can further obliterate them by using an acid. You’re skin is not even close to healing & this is the time to do it.”


“What am I going to tell them at the hospital?”


“Nothing! Absolutely fucking nothing! You can’t remember a thing. Especially your name! The amount of men going through those hospitals is enormous. You’re just going to be one more wounded serviceman that they have to work on. I’ll report that an ARVN unit found you about a hundred klicks from here. But don’t forget…you don’t remember a thing…remember, especially your name. That’s your story. Stateside…you build up some trust with the hospital staff & when the time is right at the hospital, that’s when you make your break.”


“How do I know what hospital they’ll send me to stateside.”


“I’ve got a connection at the hospital in Saigon. He’ll make sure that you’re transferred to the burn unit at Letterman in San Francisco. After you get out of there I can set you up with a guy that can provide you with a brand new identity.”


Here’s what I eventually found out about how the cops figured out I was involved in the Woolworths heist.


The cops dusted the safe & found 4 sets of fingerprints - Dan’s, Lois’, Dan’s drunk old man, & a unidentified set (mine). There was no reason for Dan’s prints to be on that safe. Conveniently, Dan was currently sitting in the County jail after being busted for trying to break into a local drugstore so it was no problem at all to bring him in for questioning.


Dan, in the throes of a wicked addiction to Mexican Black Tar heroin, & going through withdrawal…spilled his guts out all over the cop shop floor…along with my name in a feeble attempt to cut a deal.


I had never been fingerprinted until I joined the Navy & it had taken that long for them to match my prints.


Why the fuck we had taken our gloves off I’ll never know. Probably because Dan bought the cheap ones that made your hands sweat - the James Gang we were not. Although when you’re cracking a safe you might not want to drink a couple of brews & smoke some weed beforehand...that’s just poor ass planning!


Somehow I managed to hit the water at almost the perfect angle…if you wanted to survive the jump! That hadn’t been my objective. I hit feet first leaning slightly backwards.


It wasn’t hitting the water or the impact that brought me back to consciousness…it was some bones in my feet & legs breaking, vertebrae exploding, & my arm shattering that forced me to come to come around.


I don’t know deep I had plunged but it was like my eyes were these laser guided floodlights that I could scan the bottom of the Bay with. There were sunken sailboats, freighters, marijuana bales, skeletons from the boats & bridge jumpers, River Patrol Boats, mermaids, submarines passing by, Great White sharks, Chinese junks, & a psychedelic giant batfish that swam underneath me with translucent wings that left a vivid wake of trails & colors. A mermaid with beautiful tits followed after it & I sprouted a wicked hard on. One of the few since I had been shot & burned up. Although I had gotten a therapeutic coconut oil lubed hand job from a kindly Vietnamese nurses aide…who must have been close to 60 (or 90)…in Saigon.


For all that had just happened, there was no pain. Just a peaceful feeling washing over my entire body. I wanted to let myself slowly float to the bottom & rest there forever. I totally relaxed to let my body sink down further…when somebody grabbed me by my shirt & pulled me to the surface!


Several Coast Guard divers were with me in the water & were positioning me so that I could be moved into a Stokes litter & then moved up into the rescue boat.


One of the crew members was leaning over me. I strangely remember smelling garlic on his breath. “Holy fuck, man! I can’t believe that you’re alive!”




After spending about a month & change at the CIA base camp they finally choppered me out to Saigon where I spent couple of weeks being evaluated & given preliminary medical care for my burns prior to the skin grafts that would be done at Letterman in Frisco.


They couldn’t figure out who the fuck I was. The Vietnamese doctor had done a bang up job on my fingers & the acid burns blended in nicely with with the previous gasoline burns. All they knew was that I reportedly had been found by an ARVN platoon in my current condition & they had dropped me off at the Intelligence base camp where I had been held until my condition stabilized. No fingerprints, no dog tags, no ID card, & all I had been wearing were cutoff fatigues & boots. When spoken to I grudgingly responded with “I don’t know” - “I don’t remember” - “Where am I, again?” - & “Who am I?”


The Spook was right. There were so many wounded in the 3rd Field Hospital that they just didn’t have the time to try to identify one soldier, Marine, or sailor out of thousands. Especially one so badly injured & in need of multiple surgeries & most likely psychiatric treatment.


I was given John Doe status & loaded up for the flight back to the world. First a stop in Honolulu & then on to San Francisco.


I was raced back to Letterman by ambulance where I spent the next 11 months undergoing more surgeries. This time to repair my back, feet, ankles, & arm. But now there was no confusion as to who I was.


Just a few days prior to my unsuccessful final leap, I had gotten a visitor. The minute he walked in the room I knew that he was all Fed. Haircut high & tight, black suit, white shirt & black tie, no facial hair, topped off with highly polished black shoes. He had closed the door behind him.

“Good morning, Petty Officer,” he said with a smile. “I have some good news for you. Your mystery identity problem has been solved. Your name is Jay Hicks, Petty Officer Third Class Boatswain’s Mate.

No middle name. Born in Wisconsin. No known living relatives. You were captured by Charlie when your PBR was sank during a firefight in which you were the only survivor but you were rescued by ARVN forces. You have an official file at Navy HQ & you’re eligible for all veterans benefits.” He laid a brown file on my nightstand. “Inside this file you have a temporary Wisconsin drivers license, Social Security card, & a birth certificate. I’ll arrange for someone to take you down to HR & get a military ID for you.”


“What about the old me? My old identity?” I whispered.


He stopped as he turned to go. “Dead! Dead as far as the government is concerned anyway. Death benefits were paid to your girlfriend back home…I guess your parents had a shit fit over that. So you can never go back home. In fact, I suggest you stay as far away from your hometown & state as you possibly can The police file on you has been closed. From now on out you are PO3 Jay Hicks - disabled recipient of the Purple Heart.” He opened the door & stopped. “By the way. Your old buddy with the tiger cubs said ‘Thanks’ & ‘Good Luck’ & that you’d know what I was talking about.”


When he left I got out of bed & looked in the bathroom mirror. 3 quarters of my face were smooth & pink…like the face of a doll. The remaining quarter were I had been shot was scarred by the bullet & the fire. I looked like a circus freak. How could I go through life looking like this & with these demons in my head? New identity or not.


Two days later…after they let me out on a holiday day pass now that I had an ID card…I stepped out onto the Golden Gate Bridge.


Close to a year after my jump (I was a celebrity among the other patients - the circus freak that survived jumping off the Double G) when I was able to walk with a cane after going through I don’t know how many grueling surgeries & countless hours of therapy - I was given an honorable discharge with a VA rating of 100% disability to go along with my Purple Heart…& then promptly transferred & transported to the lockdown unit at the VA psych hospital for “further observation.”


It was more like an 1800s insane asylum than a modern psych ward. I quickly found out that my Purple Heart meant shit to them because for the first 3 months I was on a locked down unit. It was almost scarier than Nam being in there. I was walking with a cane & practically defenseless. These poor souls had seen & done things that had driven them over the edge & most of them were never going to make it back to where they had started. A good share of them were doing the Thorazine shuffle from all the meds that they were on…they didn’t know whether to shit or wind their wristwatch…& others would shriek & scream practically non-stop while they ran up & down the corridor screaming “incoming” or “there’s gooks inside the fucking wire.”


For some odd reason, a giant Puerto Rican soldier who had had one hand & part of his forearm blown off by a trip wire, began to shadow me & became my de facto bodyguard & if anyone approached me he would get in their way. He rarely spoke & then it was just gibberish & he was totally deaf. An orderly told me that he had bitten off his tongue from the concussion of the blast,…which had also blown out both of his eardrums & resulted in significant brain damage. He was my own personal Chief like in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.


Nights were the worst when the nightmares kicked in. I had my own to deal with but I had to put cotton in my ears it was so bad with all these poor men screaming & crying as they re-lived the nightmares that brought them to this snakepit. One particularly loud night I couldn’t sleep & was paging through an local entertainment newspaper a laid back orderly had given me. I was just about to try to get some sleep when I spotted an advertisement for a band that was booked at a larger punk club in downtown Frisco. My heart raced as I looked over the ad. In about 2 months…No Fucks Given would be headlining at the club!


I had some planning to do!


I wasn’t considered a problem patient so it wasn’t much longer before I was released from the max unit to what would be considered more of a general population unit. Double rooms…I shared mine with a Marine - strapped to his bed & who in his mind was still fighting some battle in Nam. The sound of the machines that kept his body alive provided great white noise & lulled me to sleep at night.

There was more freedom on the unit. With a unit pass you were allowed daily phone calls, you could go down to the chow hall, watch TV, listen to music, visit the commissary & snack bar…but you were still confined to the building.


My days were filled with therapy…both mental & physical & I tried to nurture the idea that I was a patient that could be trusted - but I had to put my plan in motion after my first visit with my psychiatrist - who probably didn’t give a shit either way what happened to me.


“I’m doing so much better. When can I get out of here?” Was my 1st question.


The man was obese, sweaty…he smelled like the inside of a Saigon whorehouse…his shoulders were covered in dandruff…an overall unpleasant human being with bushy eyebrows & hair a 1/2 inch long hanging out of his nostrils. A Camel was dangling from his mouth as he paged through my chart. Without looking at me he said, “You fucking survived jumping off the Golden Gate bridge. We can’t take the chance of letting you go & then you pull the same stunt again. The local papers would rape us in the ass. You have a lot of work to do on yourself. I’d estimate you’ll be here for about a year & then we’ll start integrating you back to civilian life by placing you in a veterans group home.”


I went back to my room & got out my backpack. The same pack that I had left on the bridge. In one of the pockets was a flier that I had pulled off a telephone pole the day I had jumped. It was an ad for No Fucks Given who were playing at a local club. I had forgotten about it until I saw the entertainment rag with their upcoming dates in California. On the bottom of the handbill was their manager’s name, address, & phone number up in Minnesota.


“You’re bullshitting me, right? You know the lead singer for No Fucks Given?” The unit recreational director was leaning over his desk passing me a joint. The walls of his office were lined with concert posters…mostly from the Fillmore…Janis Joplin, The Allman Brothers, Commander Cody, Grateful Dead, The Doors, & posters from some of the biggest local clubs in the bay area. The Rec director was the coolest staff member of the hospital by fucking far. Ponytail & a Fu Manchu mustache that grew almost down to the middle of the front of his neck with the ends tied off with these crystal beads.


“Since we were kids. My foster parents had a couple of cabins on a lake that they rented out in the summertime. Vic & his parents drove over from Milwaukee & rented one every year so he & I became pretty close over the years.” I passed the joint back over to him.


“Goddamn…& they agreed to play here? That’s far fucking out. What do I need to do to get the ball rolling?”


I handed NFGs agent’s phone number to him. “Just give him a call & he’ll book them on an open date on their upcoming tour. They’ve got a smaller stage they can set up in the gym.”


“No Fucks Given! I feel like I’m shitting in tall cotton. Last time I saw them downtown they were starting to jam a lot of these tunes that the punk bands in Europe are playing. They were out-fucking-standing.”


He stood up & handed me a freshly rolled joint. “Here’s one for the road. I gotta get on this right away as soon as I get done setting up the badminton tournament for Unit A.”


He slapped me on the back on the way out of the office. “Good man! Shit! I can’t believe this is happening.”


Someone…I had no idea who…had called the Chaplain of the hospital & organized it so that a Vietnamese Buddhist monk could come & see me every Saturday morning. We had an hour & a half in which we’d meditate for 45 minutes & then study for the next 45. The monk was a member of a Buddhist monastery that was in the mountains north of Frisco. When you walked inside the monastery you remained silent at all times.


After our class I walked him to the unit door & as we were waiting for a guard to escort him out, he suddenly turned to me & gave me a hug.


“Good luck!” He whispered in my ear.


I watched him through the glass window as he walked down the hallway & flashed back to the day back in Nam after we had dropped the tiger cubs off at the monastery. We were going up river & when we turned a bend there was a Vietnamese rice boat coming towards us. Apollo was taking a break & a piss off the fantail of the boat & Cocksman…who was jacked on Black Beauties, half a tab of LSD we had split & loads of caffeine… was manning the 50s. A zip stepped up to the bow of the boat & it looked like he was holding a rifle when in fact it was just a boat hook.


“Keep an eye out! He might have a weapon!” Boats yelled out & Cocksman instinctively unloaded on the guy & practically cut the slope in half. I grabbed a M16 & & rested the barrel on the canvas overhead & fired indiscriminately…the LSD & the tracer rounds making it appear as if I shooting a straight line of flaming bullets… at anything that was moving. Apollo finished off the job with 2 shots from a M79 grenade launcher which ended the entire goat fuck with a gigantic series of explosions.


When we idled over to get a closer look at the sinking boat there was a infant…half of it’s head gone… floating face down in the water. It was just a family hauling their rice & they were no more VC than I was.


The unit was heading down for breakfast when I was released from the seclusion room after 3, 4,…I don’t know how many fucking days…I was still fuzzy & fuzzy headed after being heavily dosed with Thorazine & God knows what else. After having the flashback of the headless Vietnamese baby I had “flipped the fuck out & went total apeshit” - according to one of the unit attendants & had started screaming, throwing chairs & flipped over tables, roundhouse kicked another patient in the nuts, nailed an attendant with an uppercut…before I was tackled & restrained by staff.


My hair that was finally growing in had a weird smell to it. It was coagulant. They had taken the liberty of giving me 3 sessions of shock therapy when I was in lockdown. Luckily, I didn’t remember much of anything.


The unit shrink had finally released me after deciding that I was no longer a danger to the unit, other patients, or myself…although he was still curious as to why I would only answer to the name ***** & not Jay the entire time. In fact, he said I had flown into a rage the first day & insisted that he call me by my “real name” not the one the government had given me.


“I have not idea,” I had responded, “I don’t really remember a thing & I’ve never been called by that name.”


I got in line to head down for breakfast which usually consisted of powdered eggs, French toast or pancakes, shit on a shingle, these fucking disgusting sweet rolls that looked like they were sweating, piss & kerosene tasting coffee, & some kind of mystery meat.


Sitting down across from the patient who I had kicked in the gonads, I tried to apologize but he was no better off than I had been while loaded to the gills on Thorazine. He just nodded, smiled, & farted as he shoved what I think was a whole pancake into his maw. Someone slapped me on the back & orange juice shot out of my nose..


“Jay! Fuck, man! I’m so glad to see that you’re out of seclusion!” It was Chris, the rec director. He smelled of marijuana & patchouli which was a better smell than the other guests at my table.


“I got great news! No Fucks Given! They’re booked! A week from this Saturday! I’ve already gotten the paperwork done & approved by Admin. You & I will be front row! Fucking rock & roll!” He stood up & covertly dropped 2 joints in the front pocket of my scrubs.


When you pack a hot non-air condition gymnasium with hundreds of people who have weeping wounds, unchanged dressings, haven’t showered, brushed their teeth, are sporting catheters, have colostomies & are wearing adult diapers...well I don’t have to lay it out in black & white. It was pretty funky in there. Plus, psychotropic meds give your body a weird odor on top of it.


NFG had set the stage up off in a corner in front of a door that led to a storage locker which had a exit door to the loading dock where the band had parked their bus & their equipment vehicle. The front of the stage had a large black banner with “NO FUCKS GIVEN” emblazoned on the front. The stage backdrop was also black with a huge skull with demonic glowing eyes & smoking a huge joint. I couldn’t believe that Chris had gotten this by the brass.


A guard had been posted at the storage locker door to make sure that no patients got behind the stage & slipped out the door but that problem had been solved pretty quickly. Chris had taken me & the guard into the storage room to make introductions to Vic & the rest of the band. Both of them jumped at the offer of a cold beer & they both slammed down a Anchor Steam not knowing that a hit of window pane acid was in each of their bottles. They also accepted a No Fucks Given shirt which they both promptly put on. When a roadie handed one to me…I glanced over at Chris who said “Go ahead & put in on. It’s your show.”


When the band took the stage, the crowd went bugshit! Even though the majority of the patients had no idea who No Fucks Given was…it was just an opportunity to let loose. There were no chairs for safety reasons so it was basically festival style seating…on the floor. Patients with canes, crutches, wheelchairs, & holding piss bags from their catheters were dancing around in a frenzy. Chris had gotten me placed right directly in front of the band. Security wandered around with grins as they watched the spectacle. Every once in a while, Vic would glance down at me & give a sly smirk.


For the last song of the show, the band tore into Absinthe & Whores which was my signal. I looked over at Chris who was tripping his ass off & was holding the sides of his head as he spun around in circles looking up at the ceiling & singing the lyrics. Suddenly the lights lowered & the light man lit up the gym with lasers, strobes, & flashing lights that went to the beat of the drummer which set several patients into immediate seizures. I was only 2 feet from the stage…I looked down & there was a tattooed arm sticking out from under the stage. I dropped to my knees…grabbed the hand & was pulled under the stage.


My psychiatrist & his “team”, the head of security, Chris, the guard at the back door at the concert, the head of the hospital, & a group of his flunkies filled the conference room. No coffee or day old doughnuts were being served at this get together. Strictly business. Someone had their ass on the firing line.


After everybody had their say on just what in the hell had happened & their theories about how to prevent this happening again in the future & appropriate amounts of blame & excuses passed around…my shrink had been the last to speak.


“Concerning the escape, there is no doubt security issues for the event were lax.” He glanced an evil eye at Chris...who had taken the brunt of the blame. “The whole goddamn thing should never have gone on in the first place. But that’s water under the bridge. The band was stopped by CHP & all that they found was some marijuana residue (the band had purged the bus of weed & narcotics until they reached their next gig in Los Angeles) & two half naked teenager girls…18 & 19… & their totally naked mother.”


Ignoring the smiles & chuckles, he continued on. “So our next step - priority wise - we need to focus on expanding our search & capturing Mr. Hicks & returning him to a more secure facility.” He took a pause & lit another cigarette. “However, when Hicks was in seclusion after his last breakdown he informed me his name was actually fictional & his real name was ***** ******** & would only respond to that name. Of course, he was heavily medicated at the time & had undergone 3 sessions of electroshock therapy. But I did do some investigating after the breakout & discovered that a sailor by that name was reported MIA but most likely KIA in the same region, under somewhat similar circumstances, where it was reported that Mr. Hicks was found. His body was never found although in the report his death was supposedly witnessed. I’ve requested both service records from the Navy…once they arrive we may find that Jay Hicks is not the man we thought he was…or he simply knew the sailor who had been killed. We’ll have to wait on the records & Mr. Hicks…once he is found… for the answers.”


The bus couldn’t make it up the incline of the dirt driveway so Vic & I said our goodbyes outside the bus on the side of the road.


I handed him the directions & a map drawn from memory to where I buried the cash from the Woolworths break-in. “It should be good. I buried it in PVC pipe & wrapped the cash in plastic. There’s something else in there you might find interesting. It’s all yours. I’d pay you more but my cash is deposited for me & we had to request money from our social worker & the sons of bitches questioned everything.”


Vic gave me a hug. “Don’t sweat it. I’d of done it for free, it was so fucking exciting. It’ll make a great chapter for my autobiography I’m going to write when I retire from the road. How I Smuggled A Friend Out Of A Insane Asylum will make a hell of a chapter.”


The roadie had led me under the stage to the back where a huge coffin like box on rollers was sitting…it was used to transport some of the cables & chords to set up a concert. I looked over at the guard. He was sitting on the floor in front of about 10 empty bottles of beer & was weeping uncontrollably…another victim of a bad trip. I climbed into the box & was covered with a thick blanket & then covered with the lighter cables. I could feel the box rolling & rolling until it climbed the ramp of the truck. I had a plastic tube to breathe through from a hole bored in the side of the trunk. There was so much pandemonium after the show getting all the patients back to their wards that they hadn’t even gotten around to a head count as I felt the truck start up & pulling off the grounds.


“Thanks for everything, Vic. I owe you my life.” I turned & walked up the steep incline & found myself in front of an enormous door that looked like it came from a Transylvania castle.


I knocked on the door & waited. I looked down at Vic who was just climbing back onto the bus. “No Fucks Given rules! See if you can get us booked in there sometime. Even Buddhists need some rock & roll every once in a while,” he shouted. I waved & smiled as the bus door closed.


The door to the monastery opened & & just like that…I was gone!…with No Fucks Given!






* Dan overdosed & died before charges could ever be filed. He was found dead in a Ford Pinto with a syringe in his arm. It was 30 degrees below zero.

* No Fucks Given disbanded after the Grunge movement but still get together for several “oldies” shows a year and recording sessions. Vic currently manages the Electric Fetus music store in Duluth, MN. He anonymously mailed the Klan membership ledger to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. That was the last time it was seen or heard from.

* The Cramps played a live show at the Napa State Mental Hospital in California in 1978 - No escapes were reported.

*As of 2018 there has been an estimated 1700 people who have jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge with an estimated number of 26 known survivors.

* This chapbook was written in the shade of a banyan tree where two tigers are buried after living long & peaceful lives.



"Out of here some day"

Ain't that what they used to say

Army wouldn't take me so I guess I'm gonna have to stay

Friday night, dog fight

Sucking on a meth pipe 'til I lay me down to die in Calico County

-Steve Earle

Calico County

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