A NEW YEAR?S EVE TO REMEMBER

Camp Zama, Japan was like paradise after Korea.  The band barracks was in the former Japanese Officers’ Club.  It sat upon a hill with many steps leading down to a giant Torii.*  After Quonset huts in Korea, the parquet floors and chandeliers were jarring; and there were houseboys who took care of everything.  They did laundry, pressed uniforms, cleaned our rooms and even helped dress us.  All of this was designed to make us feel special; and we were special, most of the band members were drafted out of America’s best music schools—Julliard, Eastman, the University of Indiana. 

My journey to this place had started when I enlisted in the Army as a trumpet player.  A fistfight at Fort Riley during Basic Training left me with two busted lips and four missing front teeth.  Unable to play the trumpet, I was shipped out to Korea where I served in a Heavy Mortar Company and did some reconnaissance until the night my squad bumped into a Chinese Platoon-----bad news all around.  My last day in the hospital saw the arrival of Corporal Nick Mallick.  “You were in a high school band,” he said while looking at my records.

“But I don’t know if I can still play,” I said.

“You know how to hold the horn, don’t you?” said Nick, “the General wants to field a large band.”

And so I went from a fortified bunker to a Quonset hut with central heating, showers and a bathroom. Amazing at the time, but nothing like Zama.  The Zama Band played concerts mainly; although I very much enjoyed marches down Japanese streets, especially when our bagpipers played their whining reels in between marches.  The Japanese were mesmerized by the Scottish get-up and the looks on their faces were precious.

I had a mentor in the band, a Sgt. Lee Carpenter, who explained to me that his real name was Zimmerman.  “I am one hundred percent German,” he said with pride.

He introduced me to Nietzsche and Schopenhauer.  He taught me how to play the flute and explained chords on the piano that amazed me.  In short, I followed him around like a pup and he used to say with a twist of irony, “Rojay, you’re my Jew.”

At the end of that first year, when New Year’s Eve came, I was scheduled to pull CQ Duty at midnight.  There was one other Jew in the band—Mark Emanuel—from Loss Angeles and we naturally pulled Duty on Christian holidays—Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Easter.  We didn’t complain; after all, we had Rosh Hashanah—Yom Kippur (10 days), Hanukkah (8 days) and Passover (one week).  Every Jew in the Army became religious in order to enjoy these benefits. 

But back to New Year’s Eve…….  When Carpenter and I stole into the NCO Club, we saw a large sign that read “Mixed Drinks—ten cents apiece”.  In four hours, as midnight drew nigh, I had spent $2.70, made a fool out of myself several times and was rebuffed by every woman I approached. 

Perhaps because of adrenalin, or some other inner workings of my body, the twenty-seven vodka martinis that I drank caused me to become stone-cold sober with a hydrogen bomb going off in my brain.

Carpenter helped me back to the Company and I relieved the night CQ at five till twelve.  I don’t remember the New Year being rung in, I don’t remember the crack and boom of fireworks; I passed out cold. 

When I came to at daybreak, devils from the underworld were stabbing my stomach with sabers and daggers and knives.  I cried out in pain until the ambulance arrived.  A shot of Phenobarbital put me away again. 

When I came to in the hospital, I was told they had pumped my stomach.  I was told that I had alcohol poisoning; I was told that I would be eating rice pudding and Jell-O into the foreseeable future; I was told I was lucky to be alive. 

I lay in my hospital bed for a week in a state of suspension.  I had been threatened with Court Martial for “Dereliction of Duty”. 

My ordeal came to an end when two females entered my room and closed the door behind them.  One was a quite pretty doctor and the other was a very pretty nurse.  “We have come for a sperm sample,” they said in unison and then they put on rubber gloves.

Lenin said that “paper will withstand anything you write on it” but I will not write what they did to me; and to this day, I wonder what a sperm sample had to do with twenty-seven vodka martinis. 

*A sign of the Shinto Religion-----two vertical columns joined at the top by two horizontal beams.

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Be sure to watch David Rojay on The Dave Rojay Show each Saturday night at 9:30 on Channel 17. Read A RED STATE HERO and THE LONG BRIDGE RUNNER—current chapter The Panther by David Rojay on capecodtoday.com and finally check out David Rojay on YOUTUBE. For more information, Google "David Rojay".

 

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