Friday, January 2, 2015

Dave Durkin ~ A Tributary

Dave Durkin died suddenly on December 28th, 2014.

I am not really sure what the specific cause was, as his wife had posted only a short message on defacedbook

Dave was an old Air Force (that would be the United States one) buddy of mine from way back. In fact, I first met the "Old Man" in Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base[1] on November 3rd, 1977 on my very first day of official Active Duty. His bed/bunk/cot (whatever you want to call a basic metal frame and mattress) was just across the aisle from mine and down one.

Just to keep this all on the up-and-up, here's a breakfastary story tie-in. One time, Dave, a few others, and myself went to breakfast up to Santa Cruz, CA (it is about a forty-five minutes drive due north along Highway One from Monterey, CA) at a place called "Omelets, Omelets, Omelets" (or something to that effect). Of course, the restaurant specialized in many different stuffed egg dishes. So what does Dave go and order? Pancakes! His reasoning was entirely sound, "I don't like f*cking omelettes." Of course, he could have just said that before we all decided on eating at a place called "Omelets, Omelets, Omelets" (or something to that effect).

Anyway, back to our euphony of Dave Durkin. 

We started calling Durkin "Old Man" back in Basic Training early on. He was only twenty-one at the time (and just three years older than me), but he always looked so much older and more tired than the rest of us. My first impression after I had initially met him was that he was some kinda dim-witted red-neck from the South. I am glad to say that after getting to know him, I was completely wrong and found him to be just a dim-witted bohunk from da 'Burgh (my apologies to all the dim-witted red-necks from the South out there).

After Basic Training, several of us were lucky enough to get a "Delay Enroute/Leave" (which was just Military-speak for "vacation") before our technical training course started at the Defense Language Institute (DLI for short), Presidio of Monterey, CA. This was mainly because our Basic Training had ended a few days before Christmas and most Air Force
technical schools were closed for the week between Christmas and New Year, anyway. The next week, I even ran into the "Old Man" at San Francisco International Airport and we were on the same flight down to Monterey. What are the odds? (And anyone that knew Dave or knows me, knows that "odd" is the key word there.)

Dave was not only known as "Old Man", there was his simply nicknamed "Durk" and also "Groucho". While we were at DLI, there was a pseudo-fraternity we had of Marx Brothers. It all started out as there were four members from my Basic Training Flight that were assigned to the Presidio of Monterey and, as luck would have it, all happened to be in the same Basic Russkij class: Durkin, Glen Bacon ~ as in the eponymous inventor of the Glen Bacon Scale, Wayne Vernon, and myself. As we had already known each other from spending the past six weeks together at Lackluster AFB, TX, we all hung out together when we first arrived in Montereyski. I am not sure how it came about that we started calling ourselves "the Marx Brothers", but it was soon after we had arrived there ~ there may have been alcohol involved (and probably massive quantities if you knew those guys), or it may have just been that my sometime-nickname in high school was already "Harpo". So, Durkin ended up as "Groucho", Glen was "Zeppo", Wayne was "Chico", and I was… well, still "Harpo". As time went on ~ Language School training lasts anywhere from six months to a year, depending on the language being taught ~ we started gathering more "Marx Brothers" into our little "fraternity". There was: Al Guinee ~ "Gummo"; Warren Treadway ~ "Alpo"; Brent Smith ~ "Bozo"; Chuck Bunge ~ "Bungo"; Ed Drake ~ "Wo-Bung-Lo"; Marcia York ~ "Elbo"; Roisin Gormley ~ "Kuno" (which was later changed to "Karla" once she found out what "kuno" meant in Persian-Farsi); etc-o. As can be seen, the nicknames were normally all in the grande Marx Brothers tradition of ending in an "o"; Wayne even named his car "Ringo" ('cause it was a VW "Beatle"); and Durkin's VW van was called "Gonzo".

I only mention the name of Groucho's vehicle, "Gonzo", because there was a funny story involving it. (And it's only funny now because no one was actually injured ~ miraculously ~ during the filming of this story.) One night Dave and a couple other "brothers" ~ I think that Brad "Brado" Noah (okay, so not all of these are such well-thought-out nicknames) and at least one other person were in the van with Durkin ~ were driving home one night (and I should probably mention that it was after closing hour, so there may have been one or two libations consumed that evening) from downtown Monterey by way of winding Route 68, which was the roundabout back way to the Presidio from downtown. Well, apparently on one of the tight turns, Durk flipped the van completely upside-down and it continued traveling for a few hundred feet on its roof. Dave said he remembers seeing confused drivers in cars heading in the opposite direction. And the strangest thing was that through all this, while upside-down, Durk said he was still trying to control the direction of the car with the steering wheel. Luckily no one was even hurt more than a few bumps and bruises, but the van ended up totaled… it was "gonzo", if you will.

Durkin had a strange way of calling things (it may have been his 'Burgh-ish upbringing and the way they talk; yinz know what I mean). There was a particular bar that he liked to go to that was named "The Rogue", for reasons known only to him, he always called it "The Groin". I remember one summer evening after leaving "The Groin" (we may have been thrown out, I really don’t remember the details), it was getting late and Dave wanted to hit one last bar before last call, so we headed over to a bar on Cannery Row. Well, the particular establishment that we happened into had an Asian/Chinese bartender behind the counter and Durk saunters directly up to him and says "What time do you all crose?" Well, we didn't last more than the time it took for the poor bartender to let it sink in that Dave was insulting him and he chased us all out of there screaming and yelling. 

I don't want anyone to get the wrong impression here that alcohol played a major role in off-duty Air Force
activities… heck, I know there were many times when we were all drunk on duty, too.

Dave and I went on to our classified/technical training together down in Goodfellow AFB and also portions of our Airborne Survival Training schools in Fairchild AFB (in Spokane, WA) and Homestead AFB (just outside Miami, FL). So, in all, we had spent about a year and a half together of our first enlistment. Dave then got stationed up in Mildenhall AB (about two hours outside London, the one in England) and I got a chance to visit him up there in the Spring of 1980, while I was stationed at Hellenikon AB (just outside Athens, the one in Greece, not Georgia).

We kept in touch as best as possible before the days of the Intro-Net and e-mail stuff; phone calls once in a while, usually just the occasional Christmas card or semi-yearly letter. We both got out of the Air Force
around 1986: me ~ just because I needed a change of pace; Durkin ~ due to a Medical Separation/Discharge (seems like some guys just can't take a little heart attack now and then). I moved to California and he moved to Houston, Texas attaining a decent job with Compaq (and then with Hewlett-Packard after they had enveloped Compaq). He got the chance to travel for conventions and such and we saw each other several times over a twenty year period out here in San Francisco. We made sure to do a weekend roadtrip down to Monterey to check out some of the old haunts (I don't think we were tossed from any bars, but Durkin did get into an argument with, of all things, an English bartender about not knowing how to make a "propa 'arf-n-'arf").

The last time I actually saw Dave and got together with him was probably within the past ten years ago or so (when you have known someone for over thirty-seven years, ten years seems like yesterday and twenty years only seems like the day-before yesterday); he was in town once again for business. However, since the advent of defacedbook, it had been much easier keeping in touch with him.

So, let's all raise a frosty mug of Montana Redbird[2] and toast to David "Dave/Durk/Old man/Groucho" Durkin one last time before "crosing time"!

1. That would be at the 3703 BMTS (Basic Military Training Squadron).

2. This is actually called a "Montana Red Beer", but I am calling it a "Montana Redbird" as that was what I first (mis)heard it called back in the Summer of '78, or at least that was what I think I heard it called; either way, I am sticking with my name for it. 

This is made from just a Beer (usually a Lager*, and a really cheap one at that ~ no reason to ruin a perfectly good Beer, after all) mixed with equal parts tomato juice, and I think you can add a few splashes of your favourite hot sauce, too. 

*(Durk's choice of Lager that Summer happened to be Lucky Lager®, which may have been the cheapest Beer available back then and the most affordable on a low-ranking Airman's salary. I don't think Lucky Lager® is even produced any more; it was really that bad.)

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