The story of how my dad and mom first met went something like this.
They were both at a USO club in Santa Monica California in 1943. Big band music is playing. My dad is in uniform. He walks up to mom. She is sitting alone at a small table. She has a yellow rose pinned to her white dress.
“So...tell me, why is the prettiest girl at this dance sitting here all alone, with no one to dance with? Is your dance card full?” My dad asked.
“No, my dance card is not full, Corporal. Maybe I’m more woman than most men can handle.”
“Wow that sounds dangerous.”
“Okay...how about a test drive? How about a dance? I’m Marty Casarona.”
“Alright Marty, you look brave enough. I’m Norma Johansen.”
“Oh...a German. I’m a lucky guy!”
“And you’re an Italian. This could mean trouble.”
My dad takes my mom by the hand to the dance floor and they start to dance. After about one minute, he smiles. “This isn’t so bad.”
Mom says nothing and just smiles. Before she knows it, my dad’s hand starts to move down her back. His hand ends up touching the top of her butt. Mom pulls away from him and slaps his face as hard as she can. Mom is upset and leaves the dance floor. She goes back to take her chair. Dad is dazed and is standing there alone with his face beet red. People around the dance floor start to laugh. With tears in his eyes, he walks back over to mom and gets down on his knees. Mom is looking in the other direction.
“Please...please I’m so sorry.” He says sheepishly.
She turns and looks at dad and just smiles. It was love at first sight for sure.
They got married in Jackson Mississippi. In 1944 and as the song says “They got married in a fever.” My Dad was going to be shipped out overseas. He wanted to make sure no one would snap up my mom while he was away. Plus since there was a possibility of him not coming back and getting killed fighting the Japanese he begged my mom to tie the knot. He thought if he was going to die he might as well have sex with my mom first. Since she was one of the few women who turned down my father’s advances, it would be one more notch on the belt. Funny how most of us are wired. It seems most of us always go after the ones that seem slightly out of our reach.
Which reminds me of the only “sex talk” my dad ever gave me at 16. I was walking down the hall. My father was shaving in the bathroom.
“Keith come here for a minute.” My dad never took his eyes off the mirror. “Your mother wanted me to talk to you about…. uh… you know…. sex.” “
“Oh” was my only response.
“I’m sure you know how it all works. So I have only two things to say to you. Be careful the last thing you want is to get some young stupid girl knocked up… right?”
“Uh… that’s right Dad.”
“Okay. The other thing I want to tell you is to always go after the good looking girls. They are just as lonely as the ugly ones! Got it?”
“Yeah… sure Dad.”
“Make me proud son.”
My dad was a New York City hustler for sure. His grand adventure began when he did get shipped overseas. He spent two and a half years in Honolulu, having the time of his life. He would have tears in eyes years later, when he would tell everyone he ever met that those two years were the best years of his life.
He told me many times with a gleam in his eye. “You could have been half Japanese!” I didn’t really know what he meant by that. Before he died in 2012 he told me about his secret love affair with a young Japanese girl on Oahu.
My Dad told me that Hawaii was paradise back in the war years. There was just one problem, no women. Well, there were women, just not enough of them to go around. There were tens of thousands of young service men, who needed to a women’s companionship on the island. It was the law of supply and demand and demand was high. It was so high that there was literally lines in front of whore houses in down town Honolulu. My Dad hates lines and sloppy seconds, let alone sloppy three hundred and fifteens. He was always looking for short cuts in his life. Ways to “beat the house,” as he would say. Nothing gave my father more satisfaction then beating the system, any system. Which is why my father didn’t make a very good Jehovah’s Witnesses. Whereas, they are all about following rules, he was all about bending them, if not completely breaking them. Some of their rules he never really liked were the “no smoking” and “no sex outside of marriage rule.” He wasn’t keen on the “no gambling,” and “no lying and no stealing,” ones either.
So my father even though he was married, had a real problem in Hawaii. How was he going to get laid? More importantly, how was he going to get laid and not pay for it?
One Saturday he and a couple of friends, decided to explore the island. They took their jeep and drove to the north end of the island. They found many small villages nestled in the jungle paradise. To their surprise they found lots of Japanese Americans living there. They stopped at a shack that looked like some kind of restaurant and order a couple of beers. The old man who served them was pleasant enough. They couldn’t help but noticed a couple of good looking Asian girls working in the back.
My Dad had to ask. “You folks Chinese?”
“No my friend, we of Japanese ancestry.”
“Really? We thought they shipped all you Japs… I mean you folks to camps.”
“No… many but not all. We are good Americans. In fact my son is serving with 442 regiment in Italy.” Have you boys seen combat yet?”
“No. we are with a headquarter unit and will probably never leave Hawaii.”
“Well, my son has, he has killed lots of Germans and Italians!”
“Hey, pops I’m Italian!”
“Really? Did they ship off any of your family to the camps? Like they did ours.”
“No, they didn’t.”
The old man just stood there and shook his head.
Even my Dad could see the irony in it. “I know it’s pretty messed up.”
“Yes, it is son. In fact my family can’t even go down to Honolulu without the servicemen there giving them some kind of beating.
“How do you get your supplies then?”
“With great difficulty.”
My Dad got a strange look on his face. There was an angle here for sure. .
The old man starts to smile. “I must admit we don’t see too many of you guys up in this neck of the woods either, which is fine by us.”
My Dad smiles. “Well… what is your name?”
“Well Yoshi… that is to about to change.”
My Dad was a staff Sargent and had this great job in the motor pool. How did he get this job? He lied. He said he was an ace mechanic before the war. He knew very little about how motor vehicles worked at all. He literally did nothing all day long. If a vehicle needed repair he would just delegate it to someone else. However if you needed a jeep, he was your man. He would trade jeeps and other vehicles for favors. Sometimes he lent out all the jeeps. For example, if an officer asked for a jeep to go to town on a date, sometimes he might get an eight ton truck instead. He loved screwing over the officers and doing deals on the side. A double bonus.
Gas during the war gas was going for 15 cents a gallon and was highly rationed. However on the black market you could sell it for almost pay two bucks a gallon. He told me how he would steal gas from the navy. The motor pool would send over their five thousand gallon tanker truck to the ship yard. My Dad got the idea to strap on twenty five gallon jerry cans to the side of the truck. The Navy hated to fill those small cans but they did anyway.
His CO would get the receipt for 5100 gallons and call my Dad in.
“What the hell is this Sargent? Our truck only holds 5000 gallons.”
“You know those Navy guys they are all screwed up.” Yep, my Dad had an answer for everything.
One of my father’s greatest coups was sugar for sex. If there was anything harder to get then gas during the war it was sugar. One of my Dad’s friends was Walter the mess hall Sargent. He told Walter about all the lovely horny Asian women that lived on North end of the island. Before you know it, two jeeps loaded down with 50 pound bags of sugar, coffee and gas were heading north, to do some trading with the natives.
After a couple of months of this my Dad and his friends were treated like kings. Not only did the villagers get some sugar in their coffee. They got treated like real people.
Yes, in the end the girls were waiting there with open arms and open legs too.
So, I guess I could have been half Japanese. Maybe there is a half brother or sister of mine somewhere in Hawaii who looks half Italian too, who knows.
However a part of my father was Japanese. Even though both his parents were full blooded Italian emigrants.
All his dental work was done for free in the Army. All the work was done with silver. He needed some crowns done and really wanted gold. It was going to cost him a small fortune.
“No problem.” His dentist told him. “You can get your gold for just a few cents on the dollar.”
“Easy, the first marine division is in town. They got all the gold you want.”
“The marines have gold?”
“Yes they do. it is jap gold, son!”
“The marines do some dentistry work on our jap friends. After they kill them, they collect their gold fillings and teeth.”
“If that bothers you, you can always pay full price.”
So guess where his gold fillings came from?
There was another story he loved to relate. I must have heard a hundred times. It was the chocolate for whiskey story.
A day in the motor pool, my father was chomping down a Hersey chocolate bar. There were two more on his desk. All of which he had been stolen out of the C ration kits. A young officer from Alabama strolls in to get a jeep. .
“What’s that you have there Sargent?”
“A chocolate bar.”
“Well, I really like chocolate and it’s hard to get it around here.”
“It sure is but whiskey is even harder to get.”
Whiskey was rationed and hard to get. The officers were entitled to one fifth of “Three Feathers Whiskey” a month. Plenty of beer for everyone but not much hard liquor.
“I don’t drink.” The officer said.
My dad got that look in his eye. There was a deal in the making here.
“I would be happy to give you ten Hersey chocolate bars for your bottle of whiskey.” My dad piped up.
“Really you could do that?”
“Sure, it would be tough but I could make that happen.”
So this went on for many months, they traded chocolate bars for whiskey. My Dad had a waiting list for the booze. He would get as much as $80 a bottle. This was my father’s finest moment. To screw the establishment and make money too, what could be better?
Things do change. The battalion went on an eighty mile hike one day. Everyone stopped for lunch. The young Lieutenant set down on a rock and opened up his C rations. Much to his surprise he looked down at his Hersey chocolate bar and realized it was the same kind that my father was giving him.
The next day, the lieutenant called my father in for a talk. All hell broke loose.
“So Sargent Casarona what do you do with the whiskey I been giving you?”
“Selling it mostly.”
“How much a bottle?”
“About $40 a bottle.”
“Ok… Our deal is still on but I want $20 a bottle on top of the chocolate.”
He was still coming out on top.
Yes, my father was having the time of his life in Hawaii. Wheeling and dealing and making new friends. Then the worst possible thing happened. The war ended. The party was over. He told me on VJ day you could a pin drop in the barracks. No celebration, the two year vacation from the real world was over. All the kids out of the pool.
I always wondered how he ended it with his Japanese girlfriend. I remembered seeing her picture in his army photo album. My father had a big dilemma, he already was going to have a hard time explaining his new German, protestant wife to his Italian catholic family in the Bronx. So, I don’t think his Japanese Buddhist girlfriend ever had a chance. Yep, my Dad had one too many axis women in his life. Because of that I ended up half German rather than half Japanese.
My Dad’s family never did like my mother and her strange religion anyway. In their minds my Dad was supposed to have come home to the Bronx and married a nice Italian, Catholic girl. Marty was always the rebel, one of the few things I learned to like about him, in my later years.
He loved Asian women because when my Dad died in 2012 his girlfriend who was 40 years younger than him was from Thailand. He told me he had the best sex of his life with her. It was all about the sex for him and all about the money for her. When he died he left everything to her. Judging how often he told me they had sex and what his net worth was at the time of his death, I figured it cost him about $880 every time they had sex. I hope it was the best sex he ever had because, he could have gotten a Los Vegas hooker for the same money. Yes, she had him wrapped around her little finger as did my mother and his second wife Martina.
He sent me his will in 2007. It outlined how he basically gave everything to his girlfriend. Which was fine with me except he made no provisions for his grandchildren my children. I was very upset about this and called him up.
“Dad, I don’t care about me but nothing for your grand kids?”
“Relax, I got you guys covered.” He said.
“Really what are you talking about?”
“I’m making you the executor to my will. This is your ace in hole.”
“What are you talking about?”
“It’s simple. This is how it will work. Once I’m dead, you as the executor of the will can contest it.”
“Yes, after I’m dead I don’t give a shit about her. You can contest the will and get all the money back.”
I try to live my life very Zen. However, I can’t recall a time in my whole life when I have gotten so angry. I totally lost it.
“Are you out of your mind? The last thing I want to do after you dead is get a lawyer and spend thousands of dollars trying to clean up the mess you have created.”
“But Keith, you have the ace in the whole.”
My Dad was a funny guy. Pussy wiped to the very end!