The Refectory Manager
The refectory . . . A place to nourish the soul. A place to share the savory comestibles, the sweet confections, the salty condiments of the things that matter. A place to ruminate the cud of politics. A place to rant on the railings of religion. A place to arrange the flowers of sanguine beauty. A place to pause in the repose of shelter. Welcome, my friend. The Refectory Manager
- Name: The Refectory Manager
- Location: College Place, Washington, United States
Monday, February 25, 2013
Friday, February 24, 2012
Fires of Passion
So the assignment was to introduce myself
Thursday, December 01, 2011
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Filled with the angst of uncertainty, shifting from foot to foot, consumed by the pregnant anticipation on that afternoon of a late 1966 spring day, I waited to be ingested by the old Greyhound bus parked at the old Walla Walla bus terminal. In the moments before boarding, four other motleys moseyed up, having exchanged their government issued vouchers for tickets like I had just done. Small talk was sparse. This trip could end in death. The Selective Service Board upstairs in the old Denny Building on 2nd and Alder had made their selections, at least for 4 of us. I was not drafted, yet, just trying to beat the rap by enlisting in a student program sponsored by the U.S. Army Medical Department.
At least I had the wherewithal to find a seat on the right side of the bus, that way, I wouldn't have to have the setting sun blind my eyes. The belching bus rolled out from the terminal, heading west and north on US 12 with stops at all the jerk-water-holes between Walla Walla and Clarkston. Pee stop at Lewiston, then up the old Lewiston Grade to roll out onto the Palouse Hills. We stop at GEN-e-SEE, or is it GE-NES-EE, or what the hell, then Moscow, what kind of an Un-American name of all places is Moscow for this country. When you ask somebody where it is at you get a smart-assed answer ‘it’s out in the field beside pa’s cow’. How in the hell was I ever to guess that someday I would live there. Back in reality of the present, we then cross back over the state-line from Idaho and head for Pullman. I had heard of Washington State University, but had never seen it. I got a glimpse or two on the approach, then again from the west side as we rounded that steep road-cut-cliff shielding the southwest corner of the campus. The idea was so absolutely incomprehensible and absurb that fourteen years later the U.S. Army would be sending me to WSU to earn a PhD in Nutrition that all I thought about on that trip was how to deal with stomach curdling present-tense uncertainty.
It was dark when we pulled in to the bus terminal in the seedy part of Spokane. Clear sky and a lingering nip in the air. Dirty, littered streets, rows of newspaper boxes sequestering their shadows from omniscient street lights, parking meters sprouted up between cracked sidewalks and curbs, creepy looking men crawling back into door jams. Whiffs of urine, muffled honking, somewhere in the distance the siren wail of something in trouble. We each had a voucher for lodging at the YMCA, and two more vouchers for some nearby restaurant for supper tonight and breakfast on the morrow. The four of them decided to go off and find a bar or at least a source of liquor. It would be easier to flunk a physical if they were plastered the next morning, at least that is what they surmised. I started my hunt for that restaurant.
I found it. The essence of dingy grunge enhanced by flickering neon sign on the outside, a disheveled dimness on the inside.
"You alone?" the harried waiter with filthy apron yells over his shoulder at me. "Sit wherever you want."
So I do. There is already a menu at the table, along with pressed glass salt and pepper shakers, rack of saltine crackers, tiny vase of toothpicks, bottles of requisite condiments and silverware wrapped in a paper napkin.
The menu is individually typewritten with its uneven mono-spaced serif font. A single page of meat-and-three selections ranked in price from cheapest to most expensive. I made my selection, from near the bottom. Roast beef with brown gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, side salad and dinner roll with butter. Actually, it was margarine but truth-in-menu laws hadn't been invented yet. The meal was so typically stereotypical of institutional food as evidenced by that powdered fake brown gravy taste, but who in their clientele was cognizant enough to critique that.
At the end of the meal, I presented my voucher with the meal-check at the counter.
"Why the hell didn't you say you were one of them! There is a government meal for you. You don't order from the menu." I had to break my one and only bill, a five dollar bill, to make up the difference. I take it that most inductees arrive in squad formation and are not mistaken for a singular gentlemen seeking a quality dining experience. This, my first exposure with the nuances of government procurement.
The YMCA was boisterous. Apparently a whole bunch of them arrived on the east-bound train from Seattle earlier in the afternoon. Apparently it was common knowledge to get as drunk as possible for this rite of passage.
The AFEES facility (Armed Forces Examination and Entrance Station) was spread across the upstairs in some old downtown building. Signs inside everywhere identifying station numbers. Corpsman in hospital whites scurrying around. Some 120 of us corralled in a holding room. Hippies, preppies, geeks, goons, fems, fats, bean-poles, intelligent, bewildered, stoned, sober, nervous, docile, stupid, and to a man, apprehensive. One-by-one, we are checked in with the documents we had already been given, either by the Draft Board or a recruiter. My first exposure to hurry up and wait.
Eventually we are moved into a huge room with rows of tables with the chairs lined up on each side. At the end of the tables, is a platform from which this big burly medic with both stripes and rockers on his rank insignia is making certain he is not there to take shit from anybody. He proceeds with the continuation of the paper work drill and it gets earnest. There is this long, folded DD Form some-number that is a medical history form. The usual identification stuff at the top, and then lists of question after question about diseases and injuries and deformities and abnormalities and coughs and colds and sore bung holes and pimples on the dinkus and what works and what doesn't and how you feel about all kinds of psychological stuff.
Burly sergeant medic yells out, "Look at question what-ever-the-number-it-was, it is near the bottom of the second page. If ANYBODY here checks YES on that box, by gawd, you're gonna havta come up here and PROVE it ta me!"
The question what-ever-the-number-it-was: Are you homosexual? Yes No
His implication was that if anyone did come forward to "prove it," and use that to beat the draft, he would beat the pulp out of them.
There were some gasps of horror, some snide snickers, and a 120 potential inductees furiously filling in the 'no' box.
I blanched. I had never been confronted before. Hell, I hardly knew what that was. This, for certain, was not the time or place to find out. I quickly checked 'No.' It would be years before I would concede that that was but the first lie about that that I told. It would be years before I realized that that blustery burly sergeant was typical of a deeply conflicted closet gay simply trying, in his overt homophobic way, to survive in a bigoted homophobic society.
A few more forms later, the group was split into two cohorts. The orders now were to go into this locker room, strip down to shorts and leave your socks on. Put your stuff in a locker, it would be safe. Then the lining up for blood draws, anthropometrics of height and weight measured, blood pressure taken, chests thumped, throats peered down, tongues depressed with awes expressed, ears looked into, and color vision ability ascertained. All this taking a couple of hours more of hurry-up and wait-your-turn to get the now 60 of us all processed.
There is something inherently efficient about 'processing' in the military. Especially when it comes to 'examining' the acceptability of the fitness of an individual to become a ward of the government. This initial physical examination served as a legal benchmark. Injuries or illness subsequent to this examination while enlisted (or commissioned) in the military could be deemed service-connected and thus treatment the responsibility of the government. To avoid these claims, it was imperative this benchmark legal document be as complete and as thorough as possible.
Thus, it was.
The sixty of us were herded into yet another room and lined up in four rows, fifteen guys in a row. Our medical forms placed on the floor by our left foot. Rows of butts. Tighty-whities taut on bubble butts. Blousing boxers on bloated butts. Jock straps flanking a few bare butts.
The burly sergeant making his presence known again with a Spec-4 at his side. The order was given to the first row and only to the first row to "drop your shorts". Rows two, three and four emitting the sounds of snickering. Sergeant starts at one end. Spec-4 bends down to pick up the first guy's records and the sergeant proceeds with the inguinal hernia check. "Stand up straight. Cough." Then "Cough" again as the sergeant gropes on the other side of the pendulous package. Since no abnormality is barked out by the sergeant, Spec-4 checks the "normal" box on that guy's medical history form, drops it to floor, and the process repeated with the next guy in line.
They get to the end of the line and another boisterous command given for the first row only.
"Bend over, reach back and pull your cheeks apart."
It was no longer just snickering from the peering gallery. It is overt hoots of laughter. Being hung over with a hang-over or not, the tension crackled for relief.
Fifteen pink arse holes squinting at the incandescent light of day. All of them exposing the south end pose of the Wall Street bull market bulls with their heads lowered into the feed trough.
A PFC has joined them and holds a tray containing a box of latex gloves and a paper sack for the disposables and a jar of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly. The Spec-4 reaches down again to pick up the medical record. The Sergeant jams his finger into a glove, then into the Vaseline jar, and proceeds to twist and thrust his digit bluntly into the resistant orifice with the intent of sensuously probing the assessment of the size of the owner's manhood. For a closeted homo, duty like this in the service of one's country simply doesn't get any better. One wonders of the wording of the Army Commendation Medal citation as it is read at his subsequent Awards Ceremony.
First row is completed.
The room is getting thick with the musty earthy dankness of pits and groins and sweaty feet, amalgamated with essence of Brylcreem and gawd awful Aqua-Velva, being overwhelmed by the all-ready expert skills of chemical warfare warriors with their secret, silent, but deadly dispersement of toxic intestinal gas.
Second row, same story.
We in the fourth row are thanking the warriors of yore for our fortuitous placement.
Humiliation in the second row is complete. Repeat story for the third row.
Now the view is totally unimpeded! Some guy's Bernoulli-compliant pucker lets rip with the vibrating call of Gabrielle's trumpet on the resurrection morning. A couple sets of buns blushing to keep up with the color of their owner's bent over face. Some butts massively hairy. Some pale and smooth as the scotch whiskey the owner had guzzled down the night before. Analyzing the mean and standard deviation in the length of dangling participles is enough to make a statistically inclined grammarian blush.
Third row completed.
Then. So unexpectedly.
"ABOUT face!" An emphatic command. Now what was safely the fourth and back row is the new and humiliating front row. The already debased get their turn for lustful sneering revenge. At this point, there is no more personal dignity left to be lost.
There were still two parts of the examination to complete. The urinalysis and the one-on-one interview with the doctor.
We each are given a plastic cup for the urine catch and given instructions as to where to place it when it is filled.
Our group was now divided again with those with the greetings from the President lined up first for their doctor's visit. There were about 10 of us that were purposefully enlisting and we were held to the end.
I had quickly provided my urine sample, but in the process of the long wait, I needed to go again and so headed back toward the latrine.
A big guy trying to get into the Navy jumped up and followed me. When we got into the latrine with its long trough for shoulder-to-shoulder group water works, he thrust his cup toward me and begged me to fill it for him. Seems he was having an acute case of shy bladder and was terrified that he wasn't going to be able to give his sample. Of course I complied, and assured him that I did not have any known diseases. I wonder to this day if he ever became an admiral commanding some missile launching cruiser supporting Desert Storm and if it was my little cup of pee that is now responsible for winning that war effort.
My turn next for the young Captain, fresh out of medical school. The listener to hundreds of reasons why this patient should be classified F-4 and deemed unfit for military duty. And then to reasons why other patients wanted medical problems ignored so that they could be deemed fit. The doc listened to me opine about how my knees would swell up and have tubes of Mt Dew sucked out of them with big needles, but how that shouldn’t impede me in any way for the professional program I aspired to. He scanned over the forms, looking for the sentinel “no’s” and “yes’s” flagging abnormalities. With no other comment, he stamped the form, signed his name and wished me good luck.
I had been examined. My paper work stamped ACCEPTABLE.
It was a contemplative ride back to Walla Walla later that afternoon. I was filled, still, with the angst of uncertainty.
The Refectory Manager