Most of the consumption of alcohol was limited to our clubs on base due to the time constraints of flying and getting ready to fly. Every once in a while you would get a “wild hair” to see what was on the other side of the bared wire and just have to go into Da Nang. I don't remember if there was a regular schedule of transportation, but when you were ready to come back, if you wandered down in front of the Grand Tourane Hotel you could hook up with some vehicle headed back to the base.
I don't think our bodies ever acclimated the variety of diseases and maladies that could befall you in many of these oriental watering holes. We were told never to drink the water or we might not even make it to the door. Wipe only your hands with the cool wet cloths brought to your table. Never wipe your face, as there was a bug in the water, if transmitted to your eyes, would cause you to go blind. Of course, the ice had the same warning as the water only it was harder to resist when consuming drinks other than beer. The best rule was to only drink directly from the bottle only after you personally witnessed it opening. This was fine for beer, usually No. 33, but a little tougher on the hard liquor. An unopened bottle of bourbon was a hell of a good start for an evening on the town, but a miserable next day spent in the sun flying in and out of outposts. Most of us rationalize, due to the alcohol content, only good times could live in the liquid so it would be ok to enjoy it a glass at a time. It was not to far a trip taken to get to the next plateau. If the alcohol would kill anything in the bottle, it surely would take care of anything in the ice.
With all this heavy thinking out of the way, I was ordering a drink every time a waitress came by my table. We couldn't have been having a better time when the liquid of the evening made it through my body and I had to find the men's room. The location was pointed out to me and was handily just off one end of the bar. It was a fairly small room with only a couple of stools and a lot of happy Marines trying to hit their targets. The problem was the stool by the door had been kicked sometime prior and only the jagged edges of the porcelain base remained. By any standard, this presented a pretty poor target. Without the steady hand and a good sight picture, there were a lot of “Maggie’s Drawers” on this target. The results of the red flags flowed out the door and around the end of the bar. Upon my return, I just about tripped over a small boy at the end of the bar. When I looked down I saw the “special” drink of the night. He was working a large block of ice down to drink size with an ice pick. The block and the results of his toil rested on the floor in the middle of the river of “red flags” flowing from the men's room. The boy was diligently scooping the pieces out of this river directly into the bar's ice buckets.
I walked right past my table and out the door to find that bus in front of the Grand Tourane Hotel. As I waited for the bus, I wondered how slow my death would be.
Warren R. Smith, former Cpl. USMC