My promise lasted four months. In "A Life Wasted" I wrote about getting locked up in Reykjavik after a pub fight. It started when an Icelander insulted my country and spit on me. All over President Nixon and Watergate. After my ship's XO bailed me and my buddies out of jail we weren't allowed to mingle with Iceland's civilized, but socialist citizens. After that I had a little incident with a Russian ship. They took exception over my sneaking onto their ship and stealing their flag. (Also covered in the book.) What I didn't cover was what happened when we returned to Iceland after two months on the ice cap. Since the Icelandic police wouldn't allow me back on their soil, the XO figured I'd be safe on the NATO base, which technically wasn't Icelandic soil.
A US Military bus took a load of us from the Coast Guard Ice Breaker to the large NATO base. It was dark (its mostly dark in Iceland in the winter) so I didn't see much of the base. What I did see was a large complex that housed their main bar. A huge bar. A Swedish rock band played on the stage, a large half moon bar near the back, and perhaps 800 small tables with several thousand military personal sitting or standing around the place. The only women in the bar were behind the bar pouring drinks and the band's lead singer. The rest were soldiers or sailors from many nations, all far from home, all focused on either the pretty Swedish lead singer or their drink.
The half round bar was six deep with men lined up waiting to order drinks. There was no table service and no other place to buy mixed drinks. I was with the guys that were arrested with me in Reykjavik a few months earlier. Between that and the Russian flag we decided to be on our best behavior the rest of our time in Iceland. Something our XO suggested would be wise. So rather than fight the crowd for hard liquor we opted for a beer out of the line of vending machines against the wall. Drop a quarter in the slot and a Budweiser dropped out like it was a Coke. Pretty cool.
We searched for a place to sit which seemed impossible until one of our guys spotted an open table. When we reached the table we saw a guy sitting there alone. One of my buddies shook his head indicating he didn't want to bother the guy, but I wanted to sit down so I stepped forward and asked if we could join him. He looked us over then nodded and said, "Sure Mate," He was British Military. If he told me which branch I don't recall. What I do remember is that he looked like some one I didn't want to cross. I only realized he looked dangerous after we sat down. Something my buddy noticed when we first saw him.
He was alone but had a serving tray on his table with small glasses filled with dark liquor. He drank one in a single swallow and offered us a glass. My buddies all accepted, but I declined. He said, "I insist. Bad manners to snub a man's liquor." Seemed wise not to show bad manners to this fellow so I accepted a glass and took a small sip. The drink was a Black Russian, which was funny given our recent history with the Russians. The guy didn't appreciate my delicate sip of his liquor or my smirk so he said, "Something funny." The way he said it sounded menacing. For something to say I told him about the Russian spy ship and stealing their flag and how they tried to ram us and how a Soviet nuclear bomber made several runs at us in the ice cap. He liked our story so much that he told some of his own. His stories were of gun fights in Africa. They were far more interesting than our little nuclear bomber threat. Though he never said as much, we all believed the Brit to be special forces.
When his drinks were nearly gone I volunteered to go for more. Mainly I wanted to get away from the table before I was forced to drink another. I'd had two Black Russians which felt like a good stopping point. It took a while to work my way up to the bar and by the time I did I was sure I didn't want to make the trip again. I ordered Black Russians and told the girl to fill up one of those trays. I don't recall how many there were, but at .50 cents each it cost $20 with tip. As I turned away from the bar another British soldier stopped me and warned me to be careful of the chap we were sitting with. He said the guy lost a mate in combat recently and was in a foul mood.
When I reached our table my table mates cheered at the tray full of drinks and I forgot about the warning. I lost count of how many Black Russians I'd drank, but it was far too much liquor. Everyone was drunk by this point. At this point a guy from our ship got on the stage to kiss the pretty Swedish singer. The Brit at my table stood up and shouted at my ship mate on the stage. He made a derogatory reference towards Americans I didn't appreciate so I stood up suddenly. When I stood my knee hit the small table which dumped the remainder of our drinks into the Brit's legs. I remember looking down at the mess on his leg, then seeing his leg move. I followed his foot with my eyes until it hit me in the side of the head.
When I woke up I was in sick bay back on the boat. My drinking companions had their own beds. I was the only one without broken parts. I was lucky to be knocked out with the first kick. I felt the ship under way. I asked my buddies what happened. They began to explain when the XO entered the room. Knowing he'd interrupted the story the XO picked it up. The guy I assaulted kicked me then moved on to my friends. After that moved on to the next table, which was the spark that caused the entire place to erupt in fights. They wrecked the bar. The XO was pissed. He'd heard I had started the fight by hitting the crazy Brit so nothing I could say would convince him otherwise. He knew it was over defending my shipmate so he didn't bring me up on charges. I wasn't sure if he was serious, but he told me Iceland had prohibited my return and I was never allowed on a NATO base again. Smart mouth that I am I said I'd been kicked out of better countries, to which he said he didn't doubt it.
I was sick for two days. Being at sea didn't help. My face was bruised and sore for weeks. I swore I'd never drink again.
You can read more of Clayton's biography, including the time he stole a flag off of a Russian Spy Ship, on Wattpad.