You can check out anytime you like, but be sure to rehearse

Another trip to the knee surgeon this morning means another month of little doing. After surgery last week I now am prescribed a knee brace to wear while doing relatively nothing until yet the next doctor’s appointment in about another month. I can start light duty again at work next week, so at least I will have some people with whom to speak.

Days like today make me wish there was a decent pub nearby. Actually, there is a decent hotel bar not far away but one can rack up quite a tab even at happy hour. I don’t know what the price of a bar beer was back in the day in which I drank beer in a bar. It doesn’t seem draft beer was all that expensive but you definitely got what you paid for drinking draft.

These days I drink beer vary sparingly, to the point that a brew tastes pretty good after you’ve not had one in awhile. Just as when I would go a week or two at sea without a cold one.

Marines shift American colors to Philippine as Subic Bay Naval Station is handed over back to its host country in 1992.
Marines shift American colors to Philippine as Subic Bay Naval Station is handed over back to its host country in 1992.

Talks about bars and drinking kind of go hand-in-hand, I suppose, since I feel somewhat melancholy about life in general. I started listening to the Eagles on the computer but I realized how blue some of the birds’ songs can be. “After The Thrill Is Gone,” for example.

 “What can you do when your dreams come true and it’s not quite like you planned?/What have you done to be losing the one/You held it so tight in your hand./Time passes and you must move on, half the distance takes you twice as long/So you keep on singing for the sake of the song/After the thrill is gone. 

Who cares if one doesn’t hear iambic pentameter in the lyrics? The harmonious vocals and e-lec-tric-i-cal guitars all seem to work.

If you keep listening to the Eagles you may hear something more sad and pensive or perhaps you might even run into something funny whether it’s meant to be or not. The late 1970s hit and title track of the album “Hotel California” spawns several funny thoughts that have less to do with the song so much as it does the title.

Several hit songs from “Hotel California,” including the title track were hitting the airwaves in Southern California in July 1977, just as I got there to board my old destroyer for a year of Western and Southern Pacific duty. “Life In The Fast Lane,” a particularly fitting song for driving the freeways from L.A. to San Diego, was popular just as I arrived in San Pedro/Long Beach, where my ship was in drydock. A month or two later we sailed down to our homeport of San Diego. I stored my car in Long Beach because we were only to stay in San Diego for a couple of weeks. An aside, I was worried my Corolla would be a solid rust bucket upon returning because the car was in a gated, but exposed, area seaward on Terminal Island. Luckily, all the then-3-year-old Toyota needed upon returning was a jump from some battery cables.

One thing that could definitely be said for “Hotel California” is that it travels well. It seemed as if hardly a day went by when you couldn’t hear the song played on a juke box or by a local Filipino band in one of the clubs fronting Magsaysay Drive in beautiful downtown Olangapo, Republic of the Philippines. Olangapo is the city that was outside the main gate to the then Subic Bay Naval Station. The U.S. relinquished control of the large naval station and adjacent Cubi Point Naval Air Station in 1992 due to a call among the Filipino people to close it. The control by the Philippines was hastened, as was nearby Clark Air Force Base in Manilla, when the area was engulfed in volcanic dust from the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991.

In the days I visited Olangapo on and off from September 1977 to April 1978, I had learned of the intensity and dedication Filipino musical groups gave to their work. It was not unheard of for bands to practice eight hours in the day only to go on and perform just afterwards in the evenings. Sometimes, one might think the bands that recorded the popular rock tunes heard in the U.S. were the original bands. But it seemed many groups in Olangapo had one small flaw when it came to playing the Eagles’ hit, “Hotel California.” That would be the pronunciation of “California” itself. The local bands to a man (mostly) sang: “Welcome to the Hotel Cal-i-porn-ya.”

Some afternoons when were let go from work with early liberty, one might sit in a bar alone with his thoughts, with no “Calipornia.” One might then enjoy a cold San Miguel, and wonder what life was to bring. I never thought I would still ponder those times 36 years later, still with a bit of melancholy even though I’ve seen enough to make probably dozens of people happy.

Such is life. Those Filipino dudes sounded great, whether they mispronounced “California”or not. Nothing or no one is perfect. Life would be pretty damned dull if it was.

Here is a toast to imperfection and its restorative powers!

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