** 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….
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