Thursday, September 01, 2005
The Golfing Bear
Located in picturesque Monterey, California, Our Lady of Angels College was founded in 1922 by the good Jesuit fathers. The campus is on the site of an old Spanish fort overlooking Monterey harbor. It’s a small college. (Enrollment was a little under a thousand when I attended during the late 80’s.) The school has one mission: to give future diplomats and spooks a relatively inexpensive and Spartan college education. (It was only later that I realized that the Jesuits liked to have an in with foreign policy wonks for reasons of their own.) The only majors are area studies (Soviet [or Russian, nowadays], Latin American, Middle Eastern, etc.) Every one minors in International Relations. OLAC also has the best Division III track team (the Avengers) on the Left Coast. Due to the fact that it had a higher pregnancy rate than Calcutta (OLAC went co-ed in 1967), it was often referred to as “Open Legs Academy.” There is a bronze statue of an eagle at the bottom of the campus, near the bay. It is often said that the eagle will fly when a virgin graduates from OLAC.
Fr. Francis Powell, S.J. was and still remains the dean of OLAC. This is in spite of a big scandal that occurred when I attended concerning his falsified academic credentials. He’s a tough one-eyed priest from Hell’s Kitchen and has managed to overcome accusations of sexual impropriety, as well.
Nick Nefsick and I had a regular thing on Wednesday night. We'd go to Steinbeck's because the old man there wouldn't card us. (Author’s Note – I was legal by this time, but Nick was still 20.) One time, we were playing eight-ball and Nick said, "You know, Rex, we're graduating soon."
"Yeah, I know. Four and a half weeks to go in this beautiful hell-hole."
"We need a souvenir from Monterey; something big."
"I don't know. Maybe the sign in front of the Lone Cypress or something like that."
"Yeah, we'll get something."
Later on we went to the student union. It was country and western night, or, what I called "Redneck Night." I never really dug Merle Haggard or Waylon Jennings, but I had a good buzz and didn't give a fuck. Besides, if you were too cocked to get home any other way, they had a van that would take you back to the dorm. We called it the drunk bus and towards the end of the night, it became the chunk bus.
While we were at the student union, Nick and I ran into Pete Barrett. Pete was a freshman on our floor. He was sort of a gloom rocker. You know the type; all black clothes, hair dyed pitch black, clove cigarettes. The whole nine yards. Nick was talking to him. Somehow they got around to talking about our plan to get a memento of Monterey before we left.
"That sounds pretty cool," Pete said, stubbing out his Djarum. "But if you really want to make an impact, we should steal something and put it in front of the Administration Building."
The crowd in the Student Union was all decked out in shitkickers and ten-gallon hats. They were all screaming along to "Family Tradition." I wasn't sure I heard Pete right.
"Wait a minute! We're not impact players," I shouted, "Besides, Father Powell will have our asses if we pull something like that."
"Assuming we get caught," Nick interjected, "That ain't gonna happen. The security guards here couldn't catch a cold."
"The Soviet Studies building has a bust of Stalin in one of the classrooms." Pete said. "I'll bet it would look really nice on the front steps."
"Oh, yeah!" I almost died laughing, " Andrei Sakharov is supposed to give a speech tomorrow. I'll bet he'll get a kick out of it."
"How do we get in?" inquired Nick.
"An old Mexican cleans the place 'til about ten-thirty. He usually leaves the doors unlocked when he's there." replied Pete, "I know. I stole a couple of finals from there last semester."
“Will the bust fit in a duffel bag? I’ve got one in my car.” I said.
“Yeah, it should.” Pete paused. “What do you guys think? Do you wanna go for it?”
“Sounds cool, dude!” laughed Nick, with a demonic grin.
I thought about it for a few seconds. “What the fuck. Let’s make Powell’s day.”< style=""> “Are you sure this will work?” I asked Pete.
“Natch. This is how I was able to get my Russian I midterm.”
But as we drove towards the building, we saw that Sloat Street was jammed with fire trucks. Shit! I thought. This wasn’t uncommon. Guys get drunk; they pull fire alarms, and split.
“I tell you what. Fuck Stalin’s bust and let’s get out of here.” Nick said. “I’ve got a better idea, but it’ll take a little planning. Let’s go to Mr. Wang’s.”
“Mr. Wang’s!” Pete shouted, “What the hell are we going there for?”
“Hey man, I’ll explain later. Just shut up and drive.”
So we drove a couple miles until we got to Mr. Wang’s. It was an ordinary looking raised ranch. I had never been there before, but I had heard of it. It was a jack shack; an S&M club where rich perverts went to get their rocks off.
A huge gorilla with a baseball hat and a Fu Manchu approached us as we exited Pete’s car. “Hey Nick!” he said, “Nickster! Long time, no see!”
“Eat me, bitch!” cackled Nick, “These are my friends Pete and Rex from out of town.”
“Hey dudes, I’m Ken.” The behemoth introduced himself. “If you guys are here for what I think you’re here for, follow me inside.” Pete and I raised our eyebrows at Nick, but he just laughed. What was Nick getting us into?
Anyways, this monster Ken leads us into the basement where there was a tall Oriental chick in a bikini.
“Remove your clothes!” she barked, like a drill instructor. We just stood there. Then she grabbed a cat o’nine-tails and got right in my face. “Listen here! You’re a maggot, a motherfucking maggot! You will do as I say, and do it quickly!”
I almost pissed my pants, but we all stripped to our skivvies. “Very good,” Miss Chin said, mockingly. “Now get in the chairs.”
Behind us were several barber chairs. As we sat down, Ken strapped us in, laughing. “Now comes the good part.”
Our Asian dominatrix went to a cabinet and took out a bottle of Jose Cuervo. She approached Nick. “Tilt your head back and open your mouth.” She poured almost two and a half shots of tequila in his mouth. “Now hold it in your mouth until I tell you to drink it, little man. And you better drink it all!” Then she spun the chair around quickly a few times. “Swallow!” she commanded.
Pete’s turn was next. I watched his face turn lime green after he drank the concoction. Then I was up at bat. “You’ve been a bad boy, haven’t you?” our cruel hostess taunted, “You know what happens to bad boys.” The Cuervo flowed into my mouth. “You know what happens to slimy earthworms when they’re bad. Shake your head, yes or no.” Then she grabbed my head and shook it: up, down, right, left. Then the chair spun for what seemed like an eternity. “Drink!” she screamed, “Drink your castor oil!” I swallowed the tequila. The chair felt like it was still spinning. “You bitch!” I shouted.
Everyone else started laughing. “Tequila Spinners;” said Nick, “They get you every time.”
We were all pretty hammered when we left Mr. Wang’s. Nick knew that steroid stallion, Ken, from some gym they went to. After our attempt to seal Stalin’s bust had been foiled, Nick thought it would have been cool to get some weird sex toys and sneak them into Father Powell’s office. But Ken wasn’t hip to the idea. He did, at one point, work at a place on Del Monte that made wooden statues. He said that it would be pretty easy to sneak in there and grab one. There were no dogs and the gate was always unlocked.
So here was the plan. We’d go back to Long Hall and pick up my Buick Le Sabre. It had mobster-spec trunk space. Pete would drive us down towards Del Monte. Nick and I were pretty strong, so Pete would have to be our getaway driver. Pete would drop us off about a block away and circle around. Nick and I would grab a statue and Pete would pick us up in front of the place.
Pete dropped us off on a side street and we walked to the sculpture yard. We went by an all-night gas station when Nick started fucking around with one of the pumps, pointing it at me. “Bang! I got you!” He laughed.
“Knock that shit off!” I glared at him; “We’re on a mission. Don’t compromise it.”
When we got to the yard, we suddenly realized that wooden statues are pretty large and heavy, especially if you’re inebriated. The only one that would fit in my trunk was one of a golfing bear. We started to drag it toward the street when we discovered that even this statue was too heavy. Nick tripped over something.
“Shit! I fucked my arm up.”< “Let’s get out of here. We’ll meet Pete on the street.”
But when we got to the street, Pete was nowhere to be found. We started running down the Del Monte, hoping to see my Le Sabre. Instead, we saw two police cruisers approaching us. “If they stop you, tell them that we’ve missed our ride and we’re heading back to Fort Ord before curfew!” I shouted. But it was too late. One cop picked Nick up. The other picked me up.
As the cops drove us to the police station, I sobered up more quickly than I ever did in my life. The pucker factor was way off the meter. I was not under arrest, the police officer told me, I was being held for questioning. The gas station we cut through had been robbed three times in the past week and they were staking it out. One of the other officers saw Pete swerving down the street in my car and nailed him for DWI. This cop saw our whole escapade from his cruiser.
Officer Davis, the cop’s name, led me to a holding cell. An old Mexican lay on the floor, snoring. Will this become a familiar sight to me? I had an internship with the State Department that summer. I probably fucked that up. You needed a security clearance for that. I was too worked up to sleep and too tired to think. I just sat there for what seemed like hours.
Fifteen minutes later, a burly sergeant walked in, “Mister Varno, please follow me.” He grumbled.
He led me into an interrogation room. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Nick being led into the next room. I sat down and the sergeant left the room. I heard a sound from coming from the wall. Rat-a-tat-tat. Nick was using the old tap code that Civil War POWs used. Again, rat-a-tat-tat. I reached over to respond, tat-tat. Another police officer entered the room.
“You OLAC guys think you’re funny with that tap code.” He growled. “I want you to tell me what happened tonight. Not what you want me to believe, but what really happened. Remember, you’re friends are giving statements also, and they better jibe.”
Not one to lie to the cops, I recounted the nights events. Fortunately, it concurred with what Pete and Nick told the other cops. The police had called the sculptor about the incident and he decided not to press charges. “He said that he didn’t want to ruin your futures.” The desk sergeant explained, “You owe him a big apology. I highly suggest you stop by there after classes tomorrow."
Amazingly, no one caught wind of our fiasco at school. Rumors and gossip usually flew at light speed there. After school, Nick and I stopped by the sculptor’s to apologize. “You should have come by an hour ago!” the old man said. “When my workers found out what happened last night, they said that I was a fool not to press charges. ‘Damn their futures’, they said. ‘Those kids at OLAC are a bunch of spoiled bastards.’ So I called the police to file charges. They should be making out warrants for you right now. Now, you two come here apologizing.”
“The golfing bear, the statue we tried to take, is it still for sale?” I asked.
“Well, yes. It’s a little roughed up, but I can fix it up with about an hour’s work.”
“How much is it?”
“What if we buy it from you. Could you drop the charges?”
“I don’t see why not. I have nothing against you boys and you came down like gentlemen and apologized.”
“I’ll get my checkbook. It’s in the car.”
Thus, Nick and I were proud owners of the golfing bear. Of course, he never paid me the $200 for his share of the bear. A few of the guys at school found out about our little adventure because one of the cops told one of the campus security guards, who told Eddie Pasco. Eric Airey was pissed because we didn’t include him. Hey, it was one of those spur of the moment things. In the end, we gave the bear to Pete.
(Authors note: A few years later, when I was in Saudi Arabia, I ran into this guy named Andy Garrett. He was OLAC ’90. I told him the story about the golfing bear. He knew of it. “Oh yeah, that bear! So you’re one of the guys who stole the bear. When Pete Barrett’s class graduated, they had a beach party at Asilomar. They had a fire and at the end of the night they put the bear on, sort of like a funeral pyre. I never knew where it came from.
They cremated my golfing bear. It was just as well.)