February 9. 1953
USCG Rockaway Life Boat Station
At 0700 a recording of reveille blared through the halls. The men used the heads, dressed and ambled downstairs for a breakfast of cereal, eggs with bacon, sausage or ham, juice, and coffee or milk.
After eating it was duty stations till 0900. Throughout the day they did whatever their daily assignments had them doing, which, for the first class and seaman apprentices, such as Mitchell, usually meant watches in the tower, the never-ending scraping, sanding and painting of the station’s four wood- and steel-hulled boats, or work in and about the station.
The second brick building was a garage and machine shop with two large sliding-door entries. One door, opening to the bay, had rails that ran into the water and a boat-cradle crane for the lifting, dry-docking and repair of the station’s boats. The second door opened to the concrete-covered parking area.
The third building, a white, clapboard structure, was nothing more than a roofed, three-sided façade that was fully open to the water on the fourth side. Inside that structure were two docks. Tied to either side of one dock were two powerful motor-patrol boats, and to the other dock, two sea-proof “crash boats.” Anchored into the concrete alongside the boathouse was a large winch with a web sling that was capable of hoisting a medium-sized boat out of the water.
The lookout tower was located four miles south-west of the station on a lonely wind-swept, rock, sand and weed-strewn finger of land that overlooked the Atlantic Ocean to one side and Sheepshead Bay on the other.
The only way to the tower was by means of a bumpy, bone-jarring, two-lane road that ran past two well-used “gin mills” and groves of seedy summer cottages.
Watches were set in four-hour shifts, giving six men to the lookout tower and six to the communication room in any twenty-four hour period.
Unless there was an issuance of storm warnings, boat crews of six men each were designated as the port or starboard crew, and were on duty the entire twenty-four–hour period.
At Rockaway Lifeboat Station there was one full time cook and two cook strikers.
The personnel complement was thirty-five to forty men, including the commanding officer and non-commissioned officers. With Mitchell Lipensky aboard, U.S.C.G. Rockaway Lifeboat Station was fully manned.
Using a powerful, commercial floor buffer—that, until he learned how to take it where he wanted it to go, rather than the floor buffer taking him where it wanted to go—Mitchell discovered that maintaining the mirror-like shine on the second floor deck was not quite as difficult as he’d first thought it would be.
Duty stations over, he was driven to the lookout tower and shown the proper shortwave radio and log procedures.
Upon returning to the station, he was handed a paint scraper and joined four other seamen in the boathouse scraping the hull of the number two crash boat.
He had an early lunch, then was driven back to the tower for his first long, boring, uneventful watch.
That evening, after dinner, Mitchell boarded two buses, then the two subway trains, and took his first New York City liberty.
With the collar of his pea coat turned up against the raw wind, he wandered the cold street looking at the sights along Broadway.
Soon, being alone in this strange city depressing him, as he walked his mind went to Susan, and he became even more depressed.
Seeing the sign on 42nd Street, Mitchell climbed the long flight of stairs to the U.S.O.
Inside there were a dozen or more servicemen scattered throughout the huge room. The men sat by themselves, or talked to one another or the few girls that were in attendance. On the floor, a soldier danced listlessly with a hostess to a Glenn Miller recording.
Refusing an offer to dance with a pimply-faced hostess, he had a cup of coffee and within twenty minutes left.
Back on the street, feeling increasingly homesick, Mitchell had a coke and a hamburger at the Wimpy’s on 42nd Street, then took the subways back to Flatbush Avenue, and the busses to Rockaway.
Joe Mendez was right.
Oh, yeah! The name Lipensky did show up twice as often as any others for KP, and also for the hated 2400 to 0400 (12:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.) or the 0400 to 0800 watches.
From somewhere, though, Mitchell found a source of stubborn pride and refused to give Ewing the satisfaction of knowing that he was getting to him—though he certainly was. And his seeming indifference to the unfair duty assignments and all reference to his being a “pretty boy” or a Jew, of course, only added fuel to Floyd Richard Ewing’s hatred.
“Excuse me.” Having KP for the second time in the first week of June, lugging an overloaded 40-gallon garbage can, Mitchell crossed paths with Ewing and Boatswains Mate First Class Ed Cagle, who were sitting on a low retaining wall smoking. “Were you talking to me, Sir?”
Looking at him, looking through him, ignoring him, “Yeah, Ed, that’s what we used to call ’em,” Ewing said. “Christ killers!”
As weeks became months, a strange phenomenon took place.
As though the emotion of hatred is stronger than the emotion of love, the preponderance of Mitchell Lipensky’s hatred of Warrant Officer Floyd Richard Ewing began to outweigh his love of Susan, and his thoughts of her began to dwindle… And in time, amazingly, even forgetting her phone number—except for the lonely hours in the tower—almost all thoughts of Susan stopped.
“Lippy… Hey, Lippy! It’s 0330!” His shoulder shaken, “Come on, Pal!” Shaken again, the voice faded. “Minnie! Hey, Minnie! Come on, 0330!”
Opening his eyes, he closed them against the glare of the overhead light. “Fuck, Duane,” mumbling, “it can’t be three-thirty.” Sitting up, he looked through squinted eyes at the other bed.
“Bullshit!” Minnossa grumbled from under the blanket.
“No bullshit! Time to relieve the watch!” Boatswains Mate Third Class Duane Merton jiggled the light switch, flashing the overhead light. “I wouldn’t bullshit ya, Minnie. Come on!” He looked at Minnossa, who, although still beneath the blanket, now had his rump in the air. “See ya two below.” Merton left the room.
Slipping his feet into slippers, holding his erection down, taking his towel and toilet kit from the closet, covering the front of his shorts with the towel, going into the head, Mitchell put the towel and kit on a sink, went into a stall, closed the door and, standing in front of the toilet, parting the fly of his shorts let his penis poke through. Tightening his rectum, squeezing the shaft of his penis, closing his eyes, he pumped rapidly, until a delicious pain flooded his testicles, and just short of ejaculation, when he felt he could no longer hold his urine, loosening his rectum, Mitchell let the strong stream flow through his urethra. Standing with his eyes closed and his head pressed into his hunched shoulders… as the flow diminished so did his penis. Relaxing his shoulders, he flushed the toilet, and was at the sink brushing his teeth when Minnossa, holding a towel in front of himself, went into a stall and closed the door.
Waiting in the mess hall, Merton was sitting at the table with a half-cup of coffee before him. “Ready, Lippy?”
“Yeah, Duane. Just give me a minute to fill my Thermos.” Unscrewing the cap, he held the wide opening beneath the spigot and, pressing the handle, filled his Thermos from the 40-cup, stainless steel percolator that sat on a side table in the mess hall twenty-four hours a day.
Preparing and making the large pot of coffee was the last job of that day’s mess attendant, which yesterday—so, what else was new—was Mitchell.
Men having KP would normally have a twenty-four hour grace period from all watches…unless your name was Lipensky and your captain was Floyd Richard Ewing.
The men at Rockaway Lifeboat Station were all aware of his hopeless and helpless situation, and most of them, glad it was he and not they, went out of their way to show Mitchell some degree of empathy.
“Okay, Duane, all set. Let’s go.”
On their way out, “Phil,” Merton poked his head into the communication room. “Minnie ought’a be down any second.”
“Yeah, Duane, thanks.” From inside the glass enclosure, Machinist Mate Third Class Philip Mallard waved at the two men as they went by.
Even though it was mid August, the early morning was chilly and both men wore khaki watch jackets with the words U.S.C.G. Rockaway LB Station stenciled in black across the back.
The revving of the motor in the Ford pickup always seemed to be excessively loud in the very early or very late hours and Mitchell was always glad that his room was at the far end of the building, and not nearer the garage.
Putting the truck into gear, Merton stamped on the accelerator and the Ford squealed out of the compound and onto Rockaway Beach Boulevard, which at Rockaway Point was nothing more than a bumpy, twisting, two-lane road.
Both windows open, the night air chilling him, rolling his window up, the fur-like collar about his ears, Mitchell hunched into the warmth of the jacket.
Jolting along the road, rather than slowing, Merton downshifted as the Ford cornered, then upshifted as it came out of the bend. Shooting a sharp hump, leaving the blacktop, the shock absorbers clanked at the concussion as the wheels made contact with the road again.
They roared past The Rockaway Bar & Grill, past rows of blackened cottages, past Pete’s Tavern, past The Rockaway Eatery and Bait Store, past more cottages… and then all signs of human habitation disappeared and the last mile of the bone-jarring, four-mile ride was nothing but barren rock and weed-choked, sandy soil.
There it is!