Going great guns in Guam

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 June, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 June, 1995, 12:00am

ON holiday in Guam, a place where even the Japanese think there are too many Japanese, I fell victim to the kind of abuse I haven't witnessed since my history teacher, Mr Fraser, hit me over the head for deftly, and rather brilliantly I thought, cracking him right between the eyes with an elastic band from a distance of five metres. Jane Potts - that is not a made-up name - informed on me and retribution was swift, and stinging on my ear.

If it happened today, I would be hauling Mr Fraser off to court, where he would be charged with malicious wounding.

If I were American I would probably go to court armed with a Glok pistol. There are plenty of these around in Guam, where the Japanese, pink in the near-equatorial sun, think they are Jean-Claude Van Damme and present themselves in full military regalia at gun clubs where they can shoot off a few rounds in peace and quiet, without the possibility of reducing Guam's already pleasantly small population to the size of the crowd at Instant-Dict matches.

Guam is, I should point out, an American territory. It has free speech, a free press and cocktails that you have to save for. It also has Marines, Grunts, or Boneheads. Call them what you like.

It was a young Grunt, a barely post-suckling Grunt, who caught me at the traffic lights, where I sat in my hired Ford Mustang drop top, listening to one of those American cruise channels where the disc jockeys speak on 331/3 instead of 45. Van Morrison's Brown-Eyed Girl was playing, the emollient air was soothing my third degree sunburn and life seemed generally hunky-dory and up to scratch.

All I needed was a dame in the passenger seat, and I would have been William Holden in his Buick, driving Audrey Hepburn home from the station in Sabrina Fair. The gal is mad about me, but I'm a dissolute playboy and can afford to play hard to get.

I was startled from my reverie by a voice from the car next to me, a tin can barely visible through its own fumes.

'Yo! White boy! Where d'ya get the ******* **** *** wheels?' In circumstances such as these it has been my fantasy to take the kind of action of which the National Rifle Association would approve of by rising from my seat, preferably in slow motion with no shirt on, and blowing the dude away with an assault weapon.

The problem with Hollywood is that it blurs the line between reality and fantasy to the point where there is no difference. When Arnie lets rip it's bloodless and satisfying. People die, but nobody gets hurt. Not since Dirty Harry has gratuitous extermination of one's fellow man looked as pretty as it does today.

In a despicable film called Hard Target, the first Hollywood production from John Woo, Mr Van Damme's bullets emerge from his gun in close-up, wide-screen, DeLuxe colour glory. Men do not die unpleasantly. They are thrown several feet into the air, crash through packing cases and have time for a grimace or two before they expire and Mr Van Damme moves his musculature on to the next. If you have seen anyone die, you will know it does not happen this way.

Faced with a problematical pinhead at Guam's traffic lights, the realisation that Hollywood has got it wrong hit me like a brick. The US Army invented bigger bullets when they discovered that .38 calibres bounced off Moro tribesmen like ping-pong balls from a bat. The same thing was unlikely to happen to me.

I was still in Sabrina Fair, but this time I was Humphrey Bogart, who takes Ms Hepburn out on his boat and tries to woo her by playing a copy of the only record he has, Yes, We Have No Bananas.

'Yo! White boy! You listenin' to me? Where d'ya get the wheels? I got them, I wanted to explain, from a dodgy car rental company which gave me 10 per cent discount because the safety belt did not work, leaving me open to the possibility of a US$500 (HK$3,860) fine from police who patrol the streets of Guam in cars that are quieter than a mouse in slippers.

(On the beaches, which are long and mostly deserted, they use dune buggies, of the kind I used to covet from the Banana Splits ). But extricating myself from the Mustang's leather seat so I could eyeball him was not an option.

It had taken me too long to get into it. I would have to be cool and hope the bozo would evaporate in his own hot air.

He didn't, but when the traffic lights changed, in the grip of a panic that was melting my stomach, I turned right into a one-way street and found myself in a haven of McSafety and McHappiness, a McDonald's car park. In Guam, you can be sure that nine out of 10 right turns will lead you either to McDonald's or Taco Bell.

Those that don't lead to a beach or to K-Mart, which opened a month ago, bringing the island to the kind of standstill that has not been seen in the West since the Beatles.

I bought a McHappy Meal, tried and failed to assemble the complimentary McAndroid that came with it, and spilt my Regular Coke over the Mustang's dashboard. McDonald's is like the movies. We can't remember what life would be like without it, but really, we should try.