What most people did early in their lives, I did a little bit late.
For example, most the people I talk to lost their virginity when they were between the ages of 14 and 18. Not me! I was SUPER shy before joining the Marine Corps at the age of 18. Even afterward, I was not AS shy, but it always took me plenty of liquid courage to go up and start talking to girls. Sure, I was trained to kill communists in dozens of different ways, but no one ever trained me to be a seasoned gentleman.
Secondly, most of my fellow classmates went to college much earlier than I. My Filipino father, upon finding out that I was thinking about enlisting in the Marines at the age of 18, offered to send me to college in the Philippines. “Our family is wealthy over there,” he explained. “You will have servants working for you.” But I had never been there and had no desire to live there without having ever visited. Thus, I did not go to school until after I finished my seven and a half years in the Marines utilizing the G.I. Bill benefits in which I had enrolled.
Lastly, driving was another thing. Truth be told, I was terrified of getting into an accident and killing either myself or someone else or maybe even both! So at the not-so-tender age of 23, I finally got the courage to learn to drive and eventually get my license. This was in Jacksonville, North Carolina. I was at the twilight of my womanizing days and had — previously to getting the right and means to drive — had always gone out with friends who drove or took the bus (in California, the state of my first Marine Corps duty station, they actually had an incredibly convenient and efficient transit system!). But the secretary at the Joint Public Affairs Office at New River, North Carolina, was selling a 1983 Chevy Chevette for only $600. The year was 1990, and I was what some called a party animal and what others called a pussy hound. The truth of the matter was that I was an idiot who could have started my education in those years, but chose — instead — to piss them away in bars all across the state of North Carolina.
Though I did not enjoy wisdom in those carefree years, I did instead enjoy making some fond and fun memories:
- My First Screw
No, this was not the first time I lost my virginity. That had been in a Mexican brothel when I had been stationed at Camp Pendleton. There was this one screw I kept in the change cubbyhole next to my gearshift. I usually did this to get a laugh from my friends when we all would go through the drive-thru’s at various restaurants. Whenever an attractive girl would hand my my food, I would cast a wolfish smile and say: “Wanna screw?” This went on until this one girl told me, “Sure”. And I actually gave it to her!
- My First Accident
My first accident occurred during the winter not long after I purchased my Chevette. The morning had been misty, and I had been running late for work. So I did not have time to let the windows defrost properly. So I was dumb enough to try driving under those conditions. It was all doable until the sun was causing an impossible glare. And my friend had seen that I was coming up fast on a car stopped at a small intersection. And I plowed it! My entire front end looked like lettuce. The back end of this guy’s mid-sized automobile looked absolutely fine!
I eventually took the car to a body shop where they rigged a chain to the front bumper on one end, and to the ground on the other. They reversed the car, pulling the front end back out the way it needed to be…simple, but effective! Then they just tapped all the dents out of what was left of the evidence.
- My First Near-Miss
At one point, I tried to pass a car on a two-lane highway. But the Chevette was never really known for its powerful engine. But my new driver confidence failed me, and I ended up in a ditch to the left side of the road stuck in some mud. Well I was with two other Marines. And one of them got out of the car and used a tree-branch to try to move the car into a better position. Well, when I gunned the engine, the car tires splattered mud all over the place, and he was covered! But at least we were home free with no damage to the vehicle!
- My First Customized License Plates
My first customized plate was simply: PLAYBOY. I chose it to be funny, but at the same time serious. It was funny, because the last car a playboy would traditionally drive was a Chevette. But the serious thing was that I was the real poor-man’s playboy! And I actually did manage to pick up a few girls in my little red Chevette. And many of them laughed their asses off when they saw the license plate. When it came time for me to renew my license plate, I changed it to PAID 4.
- My First Punchline
One of the girls I picked up in a bar resulted from a funny little punchline I used: my car itself! I was in a nightclub and met this one girl I felt quite desirable. We started talking, and she actually asked me: “So what do you drive, Phil?” I told her a red “‘Vette.” And when we both left the bar and she saw what I drove, she laughed her tail off.
- My First Theft of a Minor
I have only stolen two times in my life. The first time was when I was only 8-years old. And I stole a car, if you can actually believe it!…a MATCHBOX car. And I never could play with it, because I was afraid some policeman might see me and arrest me on the spot. So I almost learned my lesson. In what would eventually become my car many, many years later, I stole once again. This time it was beer. I alluded to this event in my first novel (2018: An Uncivil War). This is what had happened. An underage girl and her friend both asked me and a buddy — we were in a liquor store in Wilmington, NC — to take their money and buy a case of beer. I promptly explained that was against the law. So she said that if we would do it for her, she would allow us to take her to a party. The problem was that these girls were gorgeous and we were horny! As I was waiting in line to pay for the beer, two other guys came into the store. And they invited them to the party too. So the new problem was that they wanted to drive over with them instead of us. So, after I paid for the beer and gave them back their change, they asked me for the beer. I simply told them I needed to maintain appearances, since my car was parked right out the shop’s window. “I’ll follow you guys,” I told them. But instead, my buddy and I slipped away over to Wrightsville Beach where we met some other girls and shared the beer with them!
In 1993, I sold the Chevette to a Hispanic staff sergeant of Marines and used the money to purchase a black Buick Somerset, complete with sunroof! Then from there, I’ve also owned a Ford Explorer, a Mercury Topaz, a Ford Taurus SE, a Chevy Prizm, a Ford Taurus SHO, a Ford Winstar, a Honda Accord, and the Honda Element and Hyundai Elantra I drive today., So my little red Chevette may have been the cheapest ride I’ve ever owned. But it’s also given me some of my most precious memories!