24″ x 18″ • Watercolor
“Last Call” is a painting that was created from the memories of a Marine going on Liberty in a foreign country. It was about him and his friends and their adventures on Liberty. I tried to create this painting to capture the essence of the story that he told. I hope I was able to do so, and that you enjoy the painting.
by Shawn “Doc” Dickens
“God sure was in a good mood when he made this place.”
– Hunter S. Thompson, The Rum Diary
“SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia – A United States Navy ship has docked in Cambodia. This is the first time in over 40 years. Local authorities are urging citizens to avoid all establishments along Serendipity Road due to an influx of U.S. Marines to this area as well as the areas surrounding Serendipity Beach. Small groups of these creatures have recently been found intoxicated, wandering the streets and harassing the local wildlife. These Marines are easily identifiable by their short hair, tight shirts and constant grunting. Do not attempt to engage these Marines as they are all blood thirsty killers, prone to fly into wild fits of rage, fighting anyone within a two-block radius. Should you find yourself surrounded by these savages your best course of action is to distract them by throwing alcohol in the opposite direction and running for the nearest shelter. Keep your doors locked and children close.”
Four days ashore in Cambodia, after what seemed like an eternity at sea, were just what the doctor ordered to cure the cabin fever us Marines had been feeling.
I exited the tour bus from the dock into town and found my senses bombarded. In all directions the vibrant colors and flashing lights of various storefronts, designed to lure customers inside, blended with the rich greens of tropical flora. People jammed the sidewalks creating a flowing river of dark brown skin tones. The aromas… a mixture of fresh cooking meats, car exhaust with a subtle hint of sidewalk piss. Taxi drivers promising to take us where we needed to go but we didn’t have any idea where we needed to go.
The three others in my liberty group, Corporal Sean Smith, Corporal Grant “bush” Ritterbusch, and Hospitalman 3rd Class Chris “Doc” Diomede waded through the “Trinket Kids” toward the row of taxis. I followed behind trying my best to block out the constant shouts of the children pawing at me like money crazed zombies when I noticed we were being watched. A man wearing a floral print shirt with only the bottom two buttons buttoned and khaki shorts cut off above the knees was leaning against a short wall located next to the sidewalk. He was smoking a cigarette, intently eyeing our approach. As we got closer, he took a long drag and then flicked his cigarette into the bushes.
“Come my friends, I take you where you need to go”,
he said as he blocked the path with his body and signaled toward the line of taxis.
His taxi, if you could call it that, was a motorcycle with a small trailer designed to carry passengers attached to it by a tow hitch bolted to the rear fender. The small hairs on the back of my neck stood straight up as every instinct screamed how bad of an idea it was to get into this contraption. Bad vibes, nightmare visions danced through my mind of seedy hotel bathrooms; tubs full of melting ice; plastic bags full of freshly harvested human organs; and black market dealings. My liberty mates lacked my overactive sense of imagination, or at least basic survival skills since they piled into the trailer like lemmings.
“Take us someplace cool,” said Doc. “We want to see something epic.”
“I’m starving, lets go get food first,” said Sean.
After a few moments of harrowing travel…
“We’re here”, said our driver over his shoulder. He blew a puff of smoke into the air.
“Where is here?”, asked Sean.
“Food, my friends.”
We all leaned out and looked toward the building we were parked in front of. The sign in front of the building said The Monkey Republic. The two-story building was painted yellow and trimmed in white. The first floor consisted mostly of archways that could be closed with large shutter like doors. We exited the trailer and made our way toward one of the archways. When we walked through, we found ourselves in a large open-air bar with high-top tables and matching chairs arranged around the outer walls. Picnic style tables and standard low top tables and chairs were arranged in the center. The back wall was painted red and had menu boards mounted over the bar. The wall opposite us was also painted red but had a large vertical chalkboard mounted on it that appeared to be segmented off in a grid pattern. A hand painted sign across the top of the chalkboard read “Jäger bomb $2, Jäger shot $1.50”.
We took a seat at one of the high-top tables and waited for a server. The chalkboard had apparently caught everyone’s eye.
“Two-dollar Jäger bombs?” To Hell with food, we’re about to get fucked up.”
“It makes financial sense to drink on an empty stomach”, said Doc. “Nothing to slow your bodies alcohol absorption”.
“JÄGER-BOMBS”, is all we managed to say before the waitress reached our table.
I excused myself to use the restroom. On my return to the table, I made it a point to examine the chalkboard more closely. The grid pattern we could see was indeed just that, a large grid of two columns each with about 40 rows from top to bottom. Inside the rows on the left side were the names of countries, the rows on the right all had numbers scribbled in them. The larger countries had Arabic numerals while some of the smaller countries simply had tally marks. I made it a point to find USA’s number and saw it had 68 scrawled next to it in blue chalk. The highest number I found was England with 99. I returned to my table with my newfound knowledge.
“That board is some sort of score board for Jäger shots”, I said. “USA has 68. England apparently is in the lead with 98.”
“There is no fucking way some limey bitches are drinking more Jäger-Bombs than us, This means war!”
The waitress arrived soon after and we ordered our food. The guys also ordered 15 Jäger-Bombs between them. I ordered a root beer and a glass of water.
“You’re not drinking?”
“I don’t drink.”
He laughed and then called me a Pussy. With that he rapidly drank four of the Jäger-Bombs on the tray at the center of the table and set in motion a ripple effect that would impact the entire country of Cambodia for the next four days.
Then the following all dawned on me at the same time. First, I was in a foreign land with two other Marines and our platoon corpsman. Second, I don’t consume alcohol anymore, which meant I was going to be the sober member of the group. Third, Jäger-Bombs are two American dollars. Fourth, these animals each currently had over three month’s pay saved because of the deployment. Nervous energy caused my hand to shake as I tried to keep calm and drink from my root beer. The cold glass bottle sweating almost as bad as I was.
Before long the tray was little more than empty glasses all turned upside down. When the waitress returned the old tray was whisked away and replaced with a new tray of half Jäger shots and half Jäger-Bombs, 20 in total. Doc walked to the chalk board to adjust USA’s number to reflect the damage they had done. The new score was USA 103, England 99.
“Congrats”, I said, tipping my root beer bottle in mock toast. “You really showed those silly Brits”.
“Who said we were done?” We have to teach them not to mess with the back-to- back World War Champs!”
The longer we sat, the more our Jäger score went up. Soon USA was at 150, then 200. It was partially because of the drunkards I found myself babysitting, but also because the longer we sat the more other Marines from the ship began to wander into the bar. Each new group elicited rowdy cheers from those already in attendance followed by someone explaining the Jäger scoreboard. The Marine Corps has a saying that is drilled into every new recruit to arrive at Marine Corps Recruit Depot for training. The saying is “Every Marine is a Rifleman”. It means that no matter what MOS a Marine may hold during their Marine Corps service at their foundation every Marine is trained to fight in combat. As far as the Marines walking into The Monkey Republic knew we were now at war with the entire world.
The scoreboard was soon altered to read USMC instead of USA and once that happened the Jäger score grew exponentially. A score of 68 when we walked into the bar a few hours ago was now above 500. Marines were buying shots as fast as the bar staff could pour them, and within a matter of six hours the Marines had consumed every drop of Jäger in the bar. The panicked owner, afraid of what would happen if these Neanderthals learned the Jäger was gone, sent a runner to all the other bars on the strip to buy any bottles they could spare of the licorice flavored booze. Closing time and liberty curfew could not come fast enough.
When the owner finally sounded last call, USMC was at a total of 750 Jäger drinks. Marines leaned on each other for stability as they filtered out into the night and poured themselves into taxis. The bar staff looked as if they themselves had just arrived from the front lines of some far off war zone. Vacant eyes gazed into the distance as robotic movements programed into their subconscious drove them on as they began the task of closing up shop. The owner looked as if he had lost 10 pounds of sweat from the stress of keeping things running without incident. I thought the poor bastard was going to collapse into a ball on the floor when he heard one of the Marines mention that they would be back again the next day.
Over the next 72 hours the Marines and sailors from the USS Comstock would consume 4,761 Jäger based drinks. I contributed one to the board because when you are standing in the presence of history being made you must take a moment to make your mark. I spoke to the owner on our last night in Cambodia and learned that had we consumed every drop of Jäger in the bar that first night. The second night he bought every bottle he could find in town. He personally went to every bar on the strip before business hours and filled a van from floor to ceiling with cases of Jägermeister. When the Marines finished that, he sent his assistant manager and one of the bar backs in separate vehicles to every town in a 50-mile radius. The Marines drank it all. I jokingly asked him if the score had ever been close to the 4,761 that currently held the top spot.
“It has never gotten higher than about 200, once you guys leave, I am having a brass plaque made to go on top of the scoreboard that says USMC 4,761.”
“I will have to come back and see it.”
He forced a smile as he answered.
“Sure thing, just leave your friends home okay.”