An Excerpt from my forthcoming autobiography, “The Man in the Penguin Suit”, about my time as a US Marine stationed in Japan during the seventies.
Act 1, Scene 4
I graduated from the Naval School of Music and went to my first duty station in Iwakuni, Japan. After sleeping for a day due to the jet lag and crossing the International Date Line for the first time, I was met by a friend from the School of Music who came to the receiving barracks and said, “Douglas, get up, time to show you Iwakuni and get you settled in the Barracks!” LOL. I think I lost a couple of days there with the Moose River Hummers, the Bar Hostess’s, checking into base and playing a Christmas Concert that to this day I do not have any recollections of doing, but I did it well, obviously.
Life in Japan was wonderful and what a great adventure! Outside the front gate was Four Corner and Three Corner and that was my first area to become aquainted with. There was Wimpys for late night burgers and such with a Japanese twist, the New Manhattan Bar which is where the First Marine Aircraft Wing Band hung out, Jimmy Son, Mike Son, Michi Cho, Tomi Cho and Sachici Cho. Hiroshima was not that far away and Tokyo on the Bullet train was only a couple of fun hours away.
I could talk about the people we performed for both in the band and otherwise, but I prefer to talk about us, the ones in the Uniform or as the title of this book says, the Man In The Penguin Suit.
Being a part of a wonderful unit is always fantastic and when the finished product comes together in a performance it is very fulfilling! However, in my journeys around the globe there is one thing that stands out to me. People may know the organization and the sound of the individual people, but does the audience actually know the people in the orchestra, band or group? It’s interesting as listening to people talk, they can wax poetic over the last performance of Cher but do not really know the back up people, the stage hands, the light techs or the ones that make everything come together for that one stellar moment in time, the performance.
I guess I was lucky at times as I did a lot of solo work in Japan and the Far
east along with Australia during this time frame and thought I was making a name for myself. What I learned was that as a Marine, I was representing not only the Marine Corps but also the United States as pwhat we did in the world of Public Relations was what a lot of people saw as a product of the United States. Being in the Marines also was not limited to combat situations as we were also involved in Special Olympics around the world, working with orphanages, some of us volunteering our time to help build schools, homes, teaching, sharing with others in the civilian world. But the thing that stood out was being a United State Marine and in the Full Dress blues, that appeared to be all that was needed as part of the unit. By the way, just to clarify, I am very proud and honored to have earned the title of United States Marine, but what do I do after my time in the Corps?
While I was in Japan, I took the time when we had liberty, to travel to the home of the Suzuki Institute as the Suzuki method was new and it was unique to me! I met the creator of the method and had some wonderful enlightening conversations over tea and sushi with him about adaptability and other things, including working on my Japanese. I also traveled a lot to Tokyo on the Bullet Train and hung out in the Yamaha store trying out the horns and just having a grand old time when I met some of the designers and instrument repair people there. It was quite interesting as a Buffet man, that they actually wanted my input on a new line of clarinets they were developing and the new line of saxophones. Imagine that, a young Marine possibly affecting the next generation of musicians. I felt a bit overwhelmed later at the Clarinet Convention where I tried out those lines of instruments. Humm, maybe I’m more respected than I thought. Oh well, moving right along.
(Stay Tuned! It gets better!)