YOU’RE IN THE ARMY NOW, part 41. Let’s wrap it up.

Let’s wrap it up. I can only speak for myself here and say that the army sucked after returning from Vietnam. Perhaps I had changed? Who knows, all I do know is that I didn’t feel the love. I would have gladly gone back into civvy street but hey, a contract is a contract. The army changed its whole way of training for the future, it looked to the European style of land warfare as a future challenge. Funny that, they ended up in Iraq and Afghanistan, enough of them. In my first six months in Townsville I attended and topped a Crew Commander’s course back in my old unit, the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Sydney. Spent a happy few weeks travelling from Weipa in Cape York and back to Townsville, driving an armoured command vehicle, and being promoted to Corporal, busy indeed. I was going to talk about the trip, it involved the whole squadron being flown by Hercules transport to Weipa, then making our way through some fine countryside. Instead I’ll rattle on about me. What’s different I hear you ask? Well, I was. Looking back now I can see all the early signs of PTSD in my life, intrusive memories, avoidance and numbing, and increased anxiety or emotional arousal (hyperarousal). I remember around this time M.A.S.H began screening on television, I couldn’t watch it  because of the helicopter sounds. I had a couple of close friends, yet most of the time I would go out on my own.

A 350cc Honda road bike entered my life and changed it completely, It took me out into the world. Another corporal took me under his wing and gave me some basic instruction. I rode on a learner’s permit with him for a while then the world became my oyster. That old bike took me north to Cairns, south to Bowen and west to Charters Towers, that covered me for weekend leave. I rode it to Brisbane once on Christmas leave, my bum hurt that much I bought a new Honda 500cc four-cylinder. I considered the then, top of the range 750 Honda but theorised I would have more chance of killing myself on the thing.
Thanks to Wikipedia for the pic of a 350cc Honda.
Honda 3500 cb
Thanks to Wikipedia for the pic of the 500cc Honda.
Honda 500cc cb

I only ever came off a bike once and that happened on my L plates. Riding along a sandy track near the beach and I went arse up. Woke up flat on my back with the heady aroma of cooking flesh wafting around, my cooking flesh. The bike had landed on my leg and the exhaust pipe burnt through my boots, jeans and into my shinbone. That hurt. I even took it on the ferry across to Magnetic Island, and nearly dropped it into the sea getting it back on via a narrow ramp. Phew.
Pic by me of Arcadia at Magnetic Island.
Arcadia, magnetic island

I tried to get relationships going,  although nightclubs can be difficult places to find lasting love. I did at first however set my sights on the daughter of a Greek café owner.  I would ride into town every Sunday morning and stop at the Garden of Roses café for a decent, mixed grill breakfast. The owner served in Tanks in the Greek army in WW2 and would chat with me for a few minutes. Then on the way out I would turn on the charm with the daughter. After paying the bill one morning I asked her out. A few days later I turned up at the café, only to hear my name being called. Looking up I spotted a large, Greek orthodox priest bearing down on me. My first thought, What the bloody hell is batman doing here? I don’t want to sound disrespectful but hey, the man looked huge. Up close and personal he didn’t look any better, especially when he warned me off the girl. To sum up the conversation, “She is Greek and her family have a husband lined up for her.” I gathered this through the spittle, bristling beard hair and a venal vomit of racist epitaphs – from him. I know when I’m not wanted.

Being an aficionado of a good cup of coffee, I spied a sign in a tiny shopping arcade – Annie’s Café, and cappuccino. Nothing to lose here, helmet under my arm I climbed the stairs and sauntered into the tiny establishment.
Thanks to Wikipedia for the image.
235px-Littleanniefanny[1]
The first thing to get my attention was, an excellent life-size drawing of Little Annie Fannie. A cartoon character from Playboy magazine, the next, a wondrous vision of a blonde-haired, busty beauty standing up from behind the counter. I kid you not, here was a woman who ticked all the boxes in my tortured, lonely mind. I stayed for two hours, talked and drank three coffees before her husband turned up. I know, I felt disappointed too. We all became great friends though, believe it or not. Hugh a fortyish, Scottish marine engineer married to Aubrey, a mid-twenties daughter of an Arizona cattle rancher. They were trying out a new venture and I became their favourite customer. After a few months they moved downstairs, to a double shop with a street frontage. They were not only a coffee shop now but a record shop too, and I found myself in casual employment. Laurie the bouncer, table cleaner and DJ. On Friday and Saturday nights you could hardly move, it became the place to be.

I can’t deny that just being within yelling distance of Aubrey made me feel better.  Her voice had a soft drawl to it and her big blue eyes mesmerised anyone looking into them. On Saturday nights after shutting shop, I would go with Hugh to the bank night deposit box, then we’d all return to their flat for a drink and a chat. Hugh didn’t appear to be a fool, and one night while feasting on cold beers and oysters Kilpatrick he said, “Laurie, I’m going to be away for a couple of nights next week, Aubrey wants to see a movie or two. Can you take her?” Cough, choke, gasp splutter, “Err, yes of course Hugh, no worries.” I know what you’re all thinking and no I didn’t do anything untoward. Looking back I still don’t understand the dynamic that operated there. Did he think she needed to go out with somebody closer in age? Was he testing my loyalty as a friend? I can’t say. I do know that sitting with her through the movies, (no I can’t even remember what they were) then taking her home, I had never felt so normal and happy in my life up to that point.

Seeing how happy they were and not wanting to intrude, the urge to find a mate grew. I don’t want to go into detail here, other than I had met someone on leave. Yes, a blonde, blue-eyed cattleman’s daughter. How bloody spooky is that? The need for love and sex seemed to be uppermost in my mind and I proposed to her. When I returned to Townsville and gave the news to Hugh and Aubrey it was his turn to cough and splutter. I now know why young men don’t listen to older men, because young men think they know it all. Guess what? Older men usually do. He tried to talk me out of it, or at least to have a longer engagement. No. I knew what I wanted – his wife. I couldn’t have her so……. In all of this the universe, in its own, perverse way re-introduced me to somebody else. My current wife. Several months away from my wedding I’d come home to Ipswich on leave for a week. I’d just sold my motorbike *wipes tears away* and wandered into town before picking up my first car, a second-hand Ford station wagon, with its own mattress in the back, *nudge nudge, wink wink.* Get a grip Laurie. Feeling particularly lonely and down in the mouth I wandered past Coles, a department store at that time. Peering in through the window I saw a vision of loveliness, perched delicately on a stool at the cafeteria counter.

I have to add here that she wore a black beret, and a black coat which hung open revealing a trim form in a mini dress and lovely legs. Feeling quite confident I strode up to her and said, “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but notice you sitting here alone and I wondered if you would like to have a coffee with me?” She gave me a quizzical look. “All I want is somebody to talk too.” She looked nervously around and then accepted. We sat in a booth, drank our coffee and chatted away. We were both engaged, she would be married in the August and myself in the October. After finding out she was a nurse, I realised that I’d first met her a year previously while visiting my mother in hospital. What a small world. Can anybody see the connections here, nurses? I would meet her again ten years later when I served in the police.

After the honeymoon my wife and I returned to Townsville and quick as a flash we were pregnant. I introduced her to Hugh and Aubrey, she took one look at Aubrey and sadly I never saw them again. I don’t want to go into the last couple of years of my army service, other than we went south. Our son was born in 74 and by January 75 young Laurie became a civilian again. For those who have followed this series you will remember my arch-enemy and nemesis…….  The Dixie (huge cooking pans) I spent the last week as a soldier bashing them in a discharge depot. Did I have any regrets about leaving the army? No, my C.O had promised me my sergeant’s stripes if I signed up for another six. Not this little black duck, I had other things in mind, the police force. Looking back, I know darn well that there were many things I would have done differently.  I didn’t and I can’t change anything. I’m well aware of the old, ‘Live in the now, the moment, don’t look back.’ Yet, I can’t help at times running the tape backwards and looking at the what if’s. I’m amazed at the way life put people in front of me, and the decisions I made which weren’t always thought out with the correct head. Needless to say I’m happy in my life now and enjoy it for what it is, a bloody great place to be.
Cheers
Laurie.

41 thoughts on “YOU’RE IN THE ARMY NOW, part 41. Let’s wrap it up.

  1. Russel Ray Photos

    My first motorcycle was a Honda CB360, that exact color. Then I went to a Yamaha 400 Special II, a Yamaha 750 Virago, a Yamaha 1100 Virago, and another Yamaha 1100 Virago. I didn’t really have a preference for motorcycles, but the motorcycle dealer a mile from me specialized in Yamahas and always had great deals on bikes.

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Isn’t that funny how things work out? For me it was: Honda 350, Honda 500×4, a gap of several years then a Yamaha 250 trail bike, a Virago 750, a Suzuki 600cc single cylinder. What a mean mother that was then the last one being the 1100 Gold Wing. I had no real preference, price determined the choice.

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  2. Russel Ray Photos

    When I was but 17, a good friend had a Honda CB360. He used it to throw his paper route. One morning I went with him, 45 miles to Corpus Christi, Texas, to get the papers, and then throwing them on the rural route all the way back to Kingsville. When we finished, we went out to the caliche pits and did donuts. He laid the bike down and I had caliche gravel up my leg, side, arms, and face. It was the coolest thing, for a 17-year-old, not for my wise old grandmother. I knew then that some day I would have a motorcycle. Got a Yamaha 400 Special in 1983, a 400 Special II in 1987, a Yamaha 700 Virago in 1989, an 1100 Virago Special Edition in 1991, and an 1100 Virago again in 1999, which I sold in 2007. I am now motorcycleless……… :(

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      I can only imagine your grandmother’s reaction Russel. It’s the wrong kind of rash to break out in.. had some good bikes there by the sound of it, I had a Virago 750 twin, a beautiful bike to ride. Had a couple of trail bikes also. Now they were fun! I don’t know about riding now, it’s bad enough walking.

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  3. Theresa

    Laurie – I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you through this series. Somehow, I have a feeling the best is yet to come. Sending you blessings and peace…

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  4. suzjones

    I hear you on the sore bum from bikes. My ex was a biker (as opposed to a bikie lol). We travelled to Uluru for a Ulysses (he was a junior member) gathering one year on a Yamaha XJ900. I arrived at the campsite with the sorest bum and cried because the only way out of there was on the back of the same bloody bike!!
    I enjoyed the read Laurie.

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      I get the distinction :-) I imagine that the only upside to the trip would’ve been Uluru ( I still think of it as Ayer’s Rock ) having your bum massaged by every bump on the road is downright uncomfortable. Go to the archives and look at Turnkeys Tribulations, the story continues from there.
      Cheers
      Laurie.

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      There was a need to bring it to an end Susan. What will always be missing is anything to do with my ex-wife and son. That way they can’t say anything. I said to someone earlier that I could have kept going but it would be a rehash, same stuff – different day.
      Cheers
      Laurie. xox

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      1. Owls and Orchids

        Umm, I got that, but the sadness underneath… every ending has some sadness to it even when the next phase is looked forward to.
        At the end of the day (figure of speech) there are always things we wish had gone differently but we can only move forward. You’ve packed an amazing amount in so far – it’s been educational and funny reading the real life situations – and in all their horror and glory. You have helped put a face onto a war few ever understood. That is a huge achievement,
        Proud to know you….:)
        Ciao,
        Susan x

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      2. laurie27wsmith Post author

        Sad indeed, Susan there were a couple of ways it could have gone. The present is what it is and I wouldn’t change it now. I’ve enjoyed writing the series and reading the responses to my work. Thank you so much for the great compliment.
        Cheers
        Laurie.

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  5. talain45

    Wow, living wild and free. I remember how appealing that was at one time for me. I never got the gumption to do it for my self, always stayed close to home. We had the same interest in woman when we were younger though. It’s amazing how things turn out! I married Maria, a brown hair, dark grey eye petite little thing from Romania. Meant her on a soccer field, we played on the same co-ed adult team for a year. She’s more lovely now that she’s ever ben.
    I got some catching up to do here, I’ve fell behind your post and other things. I always enjoy visiting though! Take care, Michael :)

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      My wild freedom didn’t last too long Michael but it felt good. Yes it’s funny how our lives turn out, relationship wise. I’ve always had an eye for women with red hair, though when the right one turns up it doesn’t matter at all. meeting on a soccer field, there’s a story in there. Don’t worry about having to catch up, they’ll still be here. I’ll be dropping in soon.
      Cheers
      Laurie.

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  6. oldmainer

    Ironically, I was offered sgts stripes if I would reenlist for another 4. There were also some parallels in my acquaintance of married women, but I will not go into that.

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  7. Patricia Salamone

    Hi Fratello, It seems to me that you have let all the ghosts fly off. If they happen to come back to visit just open the door, smile and send them on their way. We all have a tape that we rewind every once in a while, we all have what if’s as well, but if like you we can say we are happy where we ended up consider yourself happy.

    Bye the way thanks for the note about Arlene. I know she is in a better place, but yes it still hurts. I also know you know exactly what that feel like. Thanks, it helps.:o)
    Cheers
    Sorella

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Hey Sorella, you’re right I’ve let them fly. The thing is, by remembering you hopefully tend to not make the same mistakes. :-) I feel for you about Arlene. My brother has been visiting from interstate and left half an hour ago and I miss him dearly. I can’t imagine life without him in it.
      Cheers
      Fratello.

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  8. Jane Dougherty

    I can’t believe it’s the end of the story. The end of a chapter maybe, but the start of a new one. Maybe you’ll look back on the next section of your life and see it in a different light. I’m willing to wait for it.

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  9. nataliescarberry

    I don’t suppose there’s anybody who hasn’t got a fair measure of what if’s to ponder, but I love what J. Krishnamurti had to say about that, “changing the curtains in the window, doesn’t change the window.” Yes, we could have made different choices along the way, but who’s to say that they would have been better choices. Your story telling is rich and interesting, and the stories make you who and what you are. I hope you are feeling better and and that you have a great week. Laurie. Cheers, Natalie :)

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      It’s a fair comment Natalie, who knows what would happen if you turn left at the intersection instead of the normal right turn. Would it be a better day, week, life? There are so many permutations on the decisions we make. yet any choice may possibly bring us back to where we have to be. Feeling bearable today. :-)
      Cheers
      Laurie.

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  10. Pagadan

    Laurie, you’ve led a full life–and oh, yes, it was full of choices. I read somewhere recently: Don’t look back with regret or forward with fear. (Something like that.) And yes, there are some choices I’d like to change, but no point wasting time on that..

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      I actually like to look back, not in a poor old me type of way but in a, I wonder way. It’s like writing a story, you can create different scenarios. the only thing you can change about the past is how you feel about it. All the future has to offer is the next heartbeat.

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  11. lifechange90

    An ending? Sounds like a beginning to me…!

    And my heart goes out to you with the bike… Mine was a ‘waterbottle’ – Suzuki GT750, the triple two stroke engine. One of the last two sold new in Australia in 1976 – I had a choice of red or black. Incredible machine and when I sold it 15 years later, I cried too! Probably alive because I did, but I still cried…

    Cheers,
    Ray

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      There’s something about a good motorbike Ray, you get attached to them. I remember that model, there were some great machines. I ended up with a Goldwing, finally giving up riding in 1993, after getting run off the road three days in a row at the same intersection. I think the universe was speaking to me.

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      1. lifechange90

        It has a way of doing that, especially on motorbikes…

        Goldwings were great bikes – incredible on the open road… Eat up the miles…

        My Suzuki was a cracker! Triple expansion chambers, shaved head, rejetted, sounded like a dozen chainsaws in a tank fighting it out! Redlined at 7,000 rpm, but I had it geared up to 20 mph per 1,000 rpm in top…. Hard to let that go…

        Pulled 180kmh over the crest of the Gateway Bridge one day, after a standing start at the toll booths… Hard to hang on though, when you are doing that – end up with arms 5 feet long!

        We’ll get a BMW 1600 GTL one day soon…. Arm rests, back rests, intercoms, padded seats, but we are NOT showing our age! LOL..

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      2. laurie27wsmith Post author

        Mate, it doesn’t take much to get those bikes up to high speed. Still got long wobbly arms? :-) There is nothing quite like being on a good bike, travelling the open road. The Beemer sounds like a great way to go, definitely NOT showing your age. ;-)

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  12. hitandrun1964

    Nice…blue eyed blond. That’s was me, now I’m platinum :) LOL Too funny. I’m so glad you had your bike. Those are the fabulous moments in life. I could hear the love and contentment in your words…the appreciation as well. Nice ending. Not the usual detailed account but a nice “draw to a close” kind of thing. It was a great series of posts and I truly enjoyed each of them. Serious, funny and touching. Great work. Still want to know about the medium thing. Looking forward to what comes next:)

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Thanks Gigi, platinum eh? That’s my hair colour too, with a speckle of black. Lol. I loved my bike. Ten years later I started riding again and ended up with A Honda Goldwing. had an argument with a kangaroo one night coming home from work, the roo lost. broke one of my panniers and left the skin off his nose on the exhaust pipe. Ouch! Yes it is a nice ending, it reflected the feel of my life at the time, understated. I’m happy that you enjoyed them, they seemed to be popular. The medium thing will be soon, don’t fret. If you are interested, A Turnkey’s Tribulations take up after I left the army.

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  13. davidprosser

    A nice end Laurie but a few ‘what if’s’ there. It’s great if we can say we’re happy in the here and now but it doesn’t say whether we’ve been happy getting to this point. I still sit and wish for time back again to make some different decisions even though it would have set my life on a different course.
    Thanks for the great story.If you ever decide to revisit and look at the next phase, I’ll be here with your other friends.

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Hi David, thank you. Yes a few what ifs there. No, I wasn’t overly happy arriving up to the point where my life changed in 2003. Now it’s infinitely better. Choices made on bad decisions in the past or even hasty decisions can have you wondering, especially if the little head did all the thinking. The next phase has already been written, it’s the Turnkey’s Tribulations, here’s the link.

      http://laurie27wsmith.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/a-turnkeys-tribulations-part-1-or-doing-porridge-in-the-70s/

      Cheers
      Laurie.

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  14. Raani York

    This, Laurie, is a worthy “wrap up” for your life from Army Man to a Civilian. Married, a son… I wonder what comes next.
    And for some reason, even though there are a few humoristic expressions and sentences in here, I can’t get rid of the feeling that this post was somewhat more “serious” and “melancholic” than others.

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Ah, what comes next is the start of A Turnkeys Tribulations, it started a couple of months after I left the army. No, there wasn’t much in the way humour, mainly because I didn’t feel part of anything anymore. Sure, there may have been a few anecdotes in the last couple of years but I would have been labouring the point. It’s best to retire from a story while it still has some pizazz. :-)

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