Small town boy in San Francisco

** Warning  Graphic  Content **  The following post contains language and event descriptions that some may find  disturbing, they were disturbing when they happened,  and beyond  and I have  kept most of the details limited to  innuendo but it is still a disturbing post – read at your discretion or bypass it altogether for some of my other more light hearted posts. 

I was so  excited! I was  heading to Australia!  The top 3  graduates in my Navy  Radioman A-School class got to choose their top 3  duty station locations and were likely to get to go to one of them for the next 2+ years.  My top pick  was Australia. I’d heard that the ratio of men to women was 1:6  SCORE!  Little did I know that Uncle Sam  had a few tricks up his striped sleeves. Off I went  with my orders in hand and sea bag on my shoulder. I boarded a prop driven Pan-Am plane  in San Diego bound for San Francisco. The plane was filled with non-English speaking Japanese people, the stewardess (that’s what they were called back then), the pilots and me. I think it only seated  maybe 50 people and it wasn’t full.  We took off and as soon as we were leveled off  the stewardess  came through with peanuts and  pop. I had a ginger ale and I remember most of the other people had screwdrivers. It’s strange the little things you remember. A few minutes later we hit unexpected turbulence. I say turbulence but it was more like the air turned to a vacuum, the plane dropped a good 1000 feet  and shook like the wings were coming off, drinks were flying people were screaming , the oxygen masks fell down.  People were praying and crying. The couple closest to me was covered in their screwdrivers, crying and praying in Japanese.  Things settled down and we climbed back up a bit  it was  still rocky going but nothing like the first few drops and rolls.   Thankfully no one was injured badly and things returned to as normal a flight as possible  though they  weren’t able to do any more drinks and as much as everyone wanted a drink , no one really wanted to get up except to get out of the plane, I think there were probably a few  people who emptied their bladders in their seats.

We  finally make it to  San Francisco International and the landing was  really cool,  coming in  over the water, it looked like we were going to land on the water but the runway appeared out of nowhere and we  touched down without incident.  Off I go  to find my connecting flight, I look at my itinerary  and  I realize my  next flight isn’t until the following day.  I was not the worldly experienced traveler then that I am now, back then I’d  done some travel with my family, some trips alone to Mississippi, Louisiana and Missouri and of course the trip alone to  Southern California for boot camp with a couple excursions with buddies to Tijuana  but this was my first real new place completely alone.  I wandered around the airport and stumbled onto the USO. It was  just a small room  open to the airport  but it was  welcoming enough, there wasn’t anyone there except the volunteer behind a counter. She offered me  coffee and  magazines and we chatted a little bit. She said I could stay as long as I wanted. I settle in on the couch and thumbed through some magazines and  read some of a Dean Koontz  novel I had.  She had to leave for  the night and the  next volunteer hadn’t yet shown up, she locked up the back but said I could stay.  I didn’t though,   it felt strange so I left and went back out into the terminal thinking I’d check back  later,  boy was I wrong on that one.

The terminal was   empty. It was dark now and no shops were open  and  it seemed as if no one was  at the airport except for me. A man in an airline uniform ( like behind the counter, not pilot or crew)  came over to me , he  was about 5’10”  with brown hair and a pot belly, he seemed like a good , friendly  guy.  He introduced himself as Bob  (Not his real name)  with Frisco Airlines (not his real employer)  and  sat down.  We  just shot the breeze  about what I was doing there. I explained that I had  flown in from San Diego and had a flight out the next day to get to Australia. We chatted for a bit and eventually   I got up to smoke and go check to see if the USO was open  again yet and staffed.  He walked with me  claiming that it was on his way out, he was off shift and heading home soon.  We got to the USO and it was still dark.   At this point Bob said “ This may seem strange, but you’re welcome to crash at my house on the couch  for the night, I have to be back here in the morning for work  anyway”.  I thanked him and politely declined but he wasn’t having it.  Somehow, I honestly don’t remember   – I’m surprised I remember as much as I do  – he talked me into it. It was just a few minutes away and  no big deal  just watch some TV, have a beer and crash on the couch and he’d get me back here in the morning for my flight out. But won’t  your wife mind?  Oh I’m not  married.  Looking back, it was just assumed where I came from/how I was raised that everyone was heterosexual –  what great progress we’ve made  in that regard,  still  a long way to go but  I do see progress.

Dear reader,  are you cringing and yelling at your screen  DON’T DO IT, YOU’RE STUPID!  STRANGER DANGER!?  I suspect you are, because just writing it I  am. But things were different back then, I was a whole lot different back then. I came from a world where  you didn’t lock your doors, you waved at trucks and they waved back, you trusted people. It was  still the 80’s  when these events occurred.  Yes I’d had some  rough and tumble experiences and  some bad things happen in my life, but my worldview was still pretty trusting and naive. Plus this was a pudgy old man ( old in my  opinion at the time)  keep in mind I was a  young man, tall and built, in excellent shape and   in uniform.  I never considered myself a target or vulnerable. So  some old guy says to a military man:   “You’re welcome to crash on my couch  and I’ll  get you back  here in the morning for your flight”    well I trusted that it was ok.  I didn’t know then what I do now.

Unfortunately it’s time to get back to the  story.

We left the terminal and walked to the employee parking lot. We got into his car, nothing fancy just a normal older sedan, still no alarms going off.  He said it was OK if I smoked in the car so I cracked the window and lit up. He asked what kind of music I liked and I said anything was fine, he tuned to a Pop station and we drove out of the  airport  and onto the streets of San Francisco. As he drove  he talked about  photography and explained that was his hobby  and his dream was to be  the photographer to  the stars. He told me stories about  famous people he’d photographed, I hadn’t heard of any of them. He said “you know Greg Evigan?”  I  shook my head.  “The guy from BJ and the bear?”  Oh yeah I  remember him.  We twisted and turned up and down hills through the city.  It turned out that he didn’t actually  have a house, he had an apartment.   Tomato /Tomahto , We parked on the street and walked up and into the building, up the stairs and to his door.  He unlocked and let me in.

I walked in and it was just a normal apartment. The entry way opened into the living room, there was a “den” off that that was set up like a mini photo studio, normal enough for a single guy whose hobby is photography.  He says to make myself comfortable.  I set my seabag against the couch and  start to  sit. He  says  wait you want the tour?  Uh not really but  being raised  to be polite  I said sure.  The first stop was the studio room. He showed me lots of photos and  his prized picute framed on the wall was  of Greg Evigan. I took this picture of Greg Evigan.  He must have said the guys name 10 times already so I’m starting to get  the heebie jeebies, I liked BJ and the bear like most every 70s kid but  come on, I get it you dig the guy.  At this point  he  says  hey  you’re a handsome young man in uniform, why don’t you let me take some pictures of you.   No thanks I’m not interested, I’m really just tired and would like to crash.  Oh I insist  you’re really good looking he says as he gets a camera out and starts snapping photos with and without the flash. I  don’t  quite argue but  I really don’t want a  fricken photo session either so I protest and  just like  you see on  tv or the movies he acts like that is part of the photo shoot  oohing an ahhing and yeah just like that, get mad.. blah blah …  he grabs my dixie cup hat (called a cover)  off the couch  in the room right behind him and throws it to  me, here put this on..  tilt it back  like the old time pictures with your gal on the pier.  Fine, if I put the hat on will you  take a couple and just be done?  Sure sure yeah put the hat on..    so I did a few pictures, hey why don’t you take your shirt off. Oh hell no….  what the hell man  no way  I’m done. I try to get out of the room  but he  trips me, I fall and hit my  chin on the  edge of the couch  slamming my teeth together in a bone rattling crunch,  dazed I feel a  weight on my back.  Again with the  what the  hell man?!  Get the fuck off me..  what? I’m helping    oh no you aren’t you sick fucker  get off me NOW..  I’m  getting out of here… oh  no   I’m sorry  I didn’t mean any harm.. here  let me get you some ice.  He gets off me and goes into the kitchen while I get up  off the floor and  wobbly  go to sit on the couch.  He comes back in with a beer and  a bag of ice.  I decline the ice but accept the beer, I’m still a teenager and can’t drink off base legally, on base I can drink as much as I can afford so  someone offers a beer I’m still  at the point in my life that I take it no matter the circumstances.  I take a long drink of the  cold beer and  ask if it’s OK if I turn on the TV.  Don’t you want to  do more photographs?  Oh My  God  this guy…. No more pictures god damn it.  I just want to relax and watch some tv.  Ok  he comes back in  the room and  turns on the tv and the VCR   and guess what he puts on…  yep no lie, BJ and the bear on VHS tape.  Whatever,  at this point I don’t really care as long as he is leaving me alone. I’ve calmed down and the beer has helped me relax a little bit.  We watch a couple episodes and he then offers a drink, a vodka tonic to be specific, with the lime even. I drink it.

I had only read about or seen on tv  about being “slipped a mickey” it never even crossed my mind..  now a days it’s a regular occurrence with  GHB  and other drugs… but again small town boy in  big city  naiveté is, or was back then – prior to the internet and 800 channels of shit  on  the TV to choose from ( choose from , choose from) , a real thing.    Shortly after the drink everything is a blur,  there are bits and flashes of very disturbing things  that I will spare you from reading  but you’re  all  modern folks and can  figure  it out…  bottom line  I was drugged and raped.

Ouch  that’s hard to write. To this day, nearly  30 years in the future it  brings tears to my eyes and shame  washes over me, sick to my stomach.

The next morning,  very early  I woke  up on  a fold out  bed  in the  living room.  My head pounding, my mouth feeling like it was full of cotton and sand paper, the rest of my body sore.  I foggily get dressed and  for some unknown reason  make the bed, guess at that point my  basic training and C-school training of  keeping my rack squared away  came in to play, but I specifically remember making the bed, not folding it back into the couch.  I  then go to the door and  start to open it, when Bob comes in from another room  in his underwear and mussed hair. Hey, where you going?  Anywhere but here, I replied.  Oh don’t be like that, I said I’d take you back to the airport  and I will.  I’m good, I will get a cab. No really  let me get ready and I will take you… he steps back into the shadowy interior of the other room and I’m out…

Still groggy and confused and  honestly scared of what I had done or what had happened the night before.  Part of me wanted to kill this person based on the flashes of things going off in my mind, part of me was disgusted and dreadfully ashamed  and sick.  All of me was screaming RUN…. He went to get dressed  and I  threw my seabag over my shoulder, put my  cover on , opened the door and  left the apartment. I got down the stairs and  out the front door and started looking up and down the street for which way to go to best try to find a taxi.   I walked  a block or two   and the sedan  pulled up and he was yelling something,  I  kept  marching down the block, with tears starting to well up in my eyes, feeling scared and alone in a strange city  after who knows what just happened to me.

He keeps pace with the car, yelling  for me to get in.  with no cabs in sight I give in  and  yell back FINE  straight to the airport..  like the naïve fool I was I get back in his car.  Thankfully , I don’t know if he’s scared, or intimidated now that I’m not drugged,  or what but he drives  quietly, he pulls up to a restaurant and I’m like WTF  I said straight to the airport goddamnit,  he says something about needing to take cinnamon rolls in to his work, he’ll just be  a minute and do I want anything?  NO…

He gets   his rolls and   he keeps to his word this time,  we  pull up to the airport as the sun is coming up.  I jump out and  grab my seabag from the back seat  and walk  as quickly as possible without breaking into a run as I could towards the  comfort of the terminal and  hopefully a plane that will carry me as far away from this horrible place  and then things  had experienced as possible.

Welcome aboard TWA flight  whatever bound for Los Angeles with  continuing service to  Sydney Australia….. The smoking lamp was lit and nearly everyone lit up, it was a flying hot box  only with cigarettes. I opened my pack of Merits that were stowed in my  sock,  shook one out, tapped it on the tray table while I got my zippo out of the secret pocket of my  13 button trousers. I snap the lighter open and  flick the flint wheel. A flame jumps to life. I light up and take a long drag and blow out all the events of the past 24 hours..   then it hit me,  I flew from San Diego to San Francisco only to fly  back to Los Angeles  and then on to where I was going to begin with…..  thanks  Uncle Sam for  this  experience, a  fine example of Military Intelligence….

 

Epilogue?

So yes  there’s the story. I’ve written it finally ,after all these years.  Maybe for some that have known me for  many years this will make you look at me differently, or not make eye contact, or even flat out  avoid me… others may  pity me,  some will be like  blah whatever it happened  over 30 years ago..    over the years  I have  told a couple people some of the story, but  when I did I always have lied about it  and said it almost happened but I beat the  guy  up and left … I was too ashamed to tell the truth, I had to  tell it the way I wished it had happened….. well now  all y’all know the truth.

Whatever it makes you think or  feel, I wrote it for me  really. To  maybe,  finally get it off my back  and maybe to let others know that  these things can  happen to anyone  even a big strong corn fed man boy in uniform.  For me  it was  a horrible event  that happened,  I didn’t talk about it  and I got about  as far away as I could ,   once I got to Sydney  I boarded other flights   until I made  it to my final  destination  a couple days later, the very northwest cape of Australia –  roughly 800 miles from civilization, surrounded on 3 sides by water and one side  by the great sandy desert.  A tiny  joint US Navy and Royal Australian Navy communication station in Exmouth, Western Australia.  It was so isolated that it counted  the same to the navy as if you were on a ship or sub – you got sea duty credit for being stationed  there. Initially  my time there was  spent  drowning myself in booze  and working out. Waiting on pins and needled after a physical for blood test results… Trying to do everything I could to prove I was a big tough man, fighting and drinking and uh huh well  yeah that too.  I trained physically hard with another  guy  – swimming, running, biking, lifting, eating only chicken, lima beans and rice for months and together we qualified to go to   BUDS (Navy Seals).  He actually went on to  go and I had found a steady  girlfriend so I stayed.   A lot happened during my  3 years there, some good , some bad but I  have much more fond memories of Australia then I do bad.  The isolation did a lot to help me bury  deep down what happened in San Fran.   Unfortunately   my next duty station, a ship bound for war…  then after we were home from the gulf  a year or so later a stop in   San Francisco and the city   dealt me  another blow..  but that is a story for another time.

Obviously I have   grown since that time in San Francisco in  the late 80s, I have realized that I am OK  and I was taken advantage of, that the only thing I did wrong was trust a stranger.  Maybe that’s not so wrong  really   I  am still a pretty trusting person  but I  learned  there’s a time and a place for that trust .. and to trust your gut. Yes I was  victimized  and he was the one in the wrong , a sick and evil person , I can’t help but still think  how dumb  I was and  that it was my own fault. But no, no one deserves to be  drugged  or raped.     I  wonder if he died yet,  I wonder how many other  young men he assaulted and if he was ever caught…  I never found out and never dug deep enough in myself to face it  publicly and try to  do something about it..  I still feel like a coward and  if there were others after me whatever happend to them was my fault….. I still have the guilt and shame, but I am sharing now  to maybe help some other person face what’s happened to them more recently  or  to  maybe have someone think twice about  a  similar situation, though times have certainly changed and  there  is now the cell phone and the internet,  cameras everywhere  and maybe, just maybe not so much of the horrible stigma that goes along with rape victims………I honestly  don’t know what the  moral  to the story is here or how to end this post  , ever since that day I’ve  gone out of my way to  be kind to   those who seem alone, welcoming to the outcasts. I have  become an ally to  LGBTQ and others who are mistreated. I was always a loner type  before San Fran,  but  I’m sure  that changed me somehow to be a different kind of loner… I went on to travel many cities all over the world alone  but not scared. Maybe I faced a demon and survived and that made me more confident in some ways? What don’t kill ya make ya  more strong? There’s something profound  but  it eludes me…  all I can say is  I’m ok and so are you.  I’ll leave you with my  standard final thoughts:

Stay Safe, Be Kind, Keep the Park Clean, Pay it forward, Make a Difference and One Love  –  http://wp.me/p2RcFA-3Z

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6 thoughts on “Small town boy in San Francisco

  1. It’s people like you and me and many others who have been taken advantage of and abused ~ but continue on in life to make sure life is Better for others ~ that keep me going strong. Much Love and Respect, Michael, as always!

  2. Michael…I am just in awe of the bravery and strength it took for you to share this. I am so horribly sorry that this happened to you…and as you predicted I was screaming “No no don’t go” in my head as I read it!!! My prayer is that someone who needs to face something that has happened to them in the past…will read this and find the grit and determination to do so. God bless you Michael….love you!!! <3

  3. Your a Leo: strong, proud and brave. The fact that you picked yourself up and lived a great life for the last 30 years shows that you faced the event head on. You can only move forward in life if you look ahead and that’s what you did. You told your story when the time was right and needed to be told. I have traveled through this horrific experience and handled things differently yet the same. I drank way to much for a year or two and gained 240 pounds ( I actually weighed 418 pounds) before I got my shit together.
    I knew you when you were just a small town handsome and talented young man and lost touch for the the last 30 years but I think your still amazing !!!!

  4. I read this the day you posted it but haven’t had the time to properly respond until now so I’m sorry I’m a little late here!

    I remember having conversations about this guy with you and I wish it hadn’t have been such a horrifying reminder of this night. If ever I said anything that made these memories worse, I’m truly sorry.

    I’m glad you are able to get this out and hopefully by sharing a big weight has been lifted. It’s been much too long that you’ve been carrying HIS baggage with you. I say HIS because you have zero fault other than trusting a fellow human who didn’t deserve it. You shouldn’t keep carrying this sicko’s guilt… it’s no longer yours to carry. Easier said than done I know. Unfortunately from experience. Remember Kyle? Yah well unfortunately so will I. For. Ever. But I’m over giving him anymore space in my soul than just a fleeting thought when I happen to think about things that have happened to me that made me stronger. It’s no longer something “I let happen” or “should have known better”. It’s now “damn I’m stronger than I ever thought.” I hope you too, find your way to that place.

    Huge hugs my friend. We WILL get together at some point this year.

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