88. Cash & Tailors

 

I climbed down a rope leading into the boat which would take us from our ship to the Qui Nhơn Harbor shore.  We didn’t tie up at any dock instead, the boat took us aground into the sand.  The trap/exit door opened up and we’d jump out onto Vietnamese soil.  We walked up the beach and into Qui Nhơn town.   

Being hyped up right from the start, I felt a little scared but it was certainly comforting knowing that I was never alone; we were always in one another’s company …mostly.  And as we walked, carefully at first, thoughts of what the Skipper and some of the Marines had told us, rushed to the forefront of my mind.

Absorbing the street scene crowded with men, women, children, the young and the old, I began to relax;  they were basically just people like me. There was plenty of street cooking which smelled amazing and lots of little shops and bars.  I felt eyes on me.

I’d see them waving in order to attract us into their shops.  Thinking of the families back home, I saw some things which interested me such as handmade trinkets, clothing, jewelry and the like.  

I detoured with a couple of the guys into one of these places, a tailor shop.  The tradesmen were Indians, like myself. Why I found this as a surprise, I do not know.

And perhaps we were obvious as new to the area because almost immediately, we were asked to join them in food and drink.   “Let’s talk, have something to eat and enjoy.” They actually closed the shop for a couple of hours.

After a shared meal and hearing the stories of where we came from originally, how we found ourselves in this little corner of the world etc., they asked us, “What can we do for you … what would you like to buy?”

From these Indian tailors, I would buy a couple of slacks.  As measurements were being taken I asked, ‘Aren’t you afraid to be here in this war zone?’  

The shopkeeper reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of cash from both pockets.  In his fairly decent English he explained, “Of course we’re scared sometimes but this is home.  If we must run suddenly, at least we have our money with us. My wife and kids do same. It’s how we handle.”   Fascinating, I remember thinking to myself.

After a much enjoyed evening in comforting hospitality of the locals, we knew it was getting late.  With the Skipper’s speech still fresh in my mind, it was definitely beach time.

Making my way there I remember looking at the sights along the way and thinking of the fun time ahead tomorrow.  At the shore we were just in time to hear a Marine’s voice blaring through a bullhorn, “Load ‘em up!”

Several of us to include guys from some of the other ships in the harbor, climbed aboard this fairly large boat and off we went.  Each various group would let them know which ship they had to return to. I called off the Trans Western.

Thank goodness for our Marines for in this dark night amongst all the boats anchored offshore, there was no way we ourselves would know which one was ours.  We arrived at our ship and quickly climbed up the rope ladder.

Myself and the other guys headed straight for the mess hall to raid the refrigerator and pantry for a late night snack before turning in.  The chef had tuna salad and fresh breads waiting to be turned into midnight sandwiches.

A full day it was and I was more than ready for some snuggling down in my bed.  That’s the sum of my first day in Vietnam. Not bad at all.

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77. Now We Are Five

Our youngest was not yet one year when he started holding on to things and toddling about.  The other two children were coming into their individual personalities.

And guess what?  It was time for us to move once again.  So from 4th Street we moved to Euclid Street, right between Broadway and Colorado.  

Also I would change my job.  Briefly to explain, a new manager hired from outside our current staff came into the Banquet Room changing things entirely and re-staffing with people he brought in.  I wasn’t exactly excited about the changes and so I went from the Hotel Miramar to the Santa Ynez Inn.

This new work location was a bit further away from home.  It was up Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) a bit, on Sunset Boulevard just below the SRF Lake Shrine Temple which by the way was and still is, a very beautiful and peaceful spot for contemplation, slowing down and catching one’s breath –if you’re into that sort of thing.  

I’m thinking Diana and I should’ve spent more time there.  Many movie stars frequented the Lake Shrine, getting away from the hectic flow of their daily lives and writers too.

Anyhow I got along so well with everyone at the Santa Ynez Inn; they really liked me, it was plain to see.  A Jewish family -the owners- were very kind and generous and occasionally allowed me to occupy one of the rooms when the working night had become too late.  I’d of course call Diana and let her know.

At the end of our shifts we were all given a meal if we wanted it.  For me I was allowed anything from the bar if it was the overnight stay.  I gratefully would enjoy only one ice cold beer with my dinner.

You know if it wasn’t a full moon, the drive was dark down the lonely coast and after such a busy shift, this journey just felt that much longer than it did going to work.  

Breakfast came along with the offer; I was encouraged to ask for anything.  Although it wasn’t often, I quickly got used to a thick, juicy steak!

Another thing they trusted to me was playing chauffeur to some of their special weekend guests.  They provided me the additional opportunity to earn even more, that was real nice.  Yes I wore a cap and the uniform.

One day Diana and I were discussing getting Alok baptized.  She said it would be nice to find godparents for him if we could.  My first two children (with Diana) were already baptized but they didn’t get godparents in the deal.  

When I went to work I mentioned in casual conversation to my manager George, that my wife and I had been discussing Alok’s baptism.  I said we had no idea how or who to appoint this important position to.

He and I had easily become pretty good friends.  George listened keenly and then much to my surprise, he offered to take the position, saying, “…well, I’d be extremely honored to be your son’s godfather.”

Since I was with Diana I had become accustomed to more Catholic ideals though I remained true to my Hindu religion in my heart.  Being entirely honest with you my followers, since I’d been away from home in Fiji for so long and away from my family, I wasn’t as devout in my worship.  

I didn’t forget my roots to be sure.  And being a part of my wife’s explorations of life made my Diana happy: well why not get educated in as many things as possible?

I told Diana of George’s offer and she was pleased with this news.  She thought it was a real wonderful thing he did to volunteer and she happily agreed.  

We baptized Alok shortly after George’s acceptance in the local Catholic church which we’d begun attending.  George had come with his wife and daughter and it was clear, they took this very seriously.  It was all very touching for Diana and myself and Alok was now blessed with a caring godfather.

The five of us frequented the beach whenever possible, no surprise, a love of ocean.  I remember there were hotdog trucks (and the like being beach finger foods) and we both enjoyed the fun of that.

We shared these treats with our kids as part of the whole experience.  My eldest boy ate his with no fuss and enjoyed drinking from his carton of milk.  The baby was neutral with baby snacks, a bottle and maybe a bite or two here and there.

mommy, Arvind & me-2Then there is our daughter.  She’s a finicky one (still is).  If there was something she didn’t like she’d watch and wait.  Then she’d hide it somewhere. We didn’t realize this at first; I was amazed to see she’d eaten her hotdog and was smiling while sipping her milk.

I’d say to Diana, ‘Look she’s finished it completely!’  We were both pleased, knowing how she could be. When it was time to move on, we’d gather up everything of course and then, discover the unconsumed hotdog she had hidden.

We were five; my family I made here in America, with the help of Diana of course, felt real good.

 

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74. Really, What Do the Stars Have Planned Next For Us?

I opened the door to see a couple of smiling police officers.  They were there to gather our information to make their incident report.  They informed us we may have to appear in court at some point.

The next day a nicely suited man came to our apartment to talk with us for a bit.  He actually said many sympathetic things including, Somebody was definitely looking out for you and your family.  Diana and myself couldn’t agree more with that statement.  

He also mentioned there had been complaints filed against this man in the past.  He shared it was felt this man wasn’t entirely stable.  The nice young detective also apprised us a little of this man’s past saying, he and his family had pulled up stakes out of the southern U.S. to settle here in California.  

The police would hold him for his hearing in 10 days.  “…looks like he’ll get a couple of years.”  For us it seemed there would be a few quiet days and nights ahead, thank goodness.

We spend one more Christmas at the Pico apartment building when we realised we’d have to make yet another move.  Things generally speaking were pretty good but as the rent increased my salary just wasn’t quite enough, at best it was about $350 monthly.  

Little did I know I was also about to switch jobs.  So I say we were very fortunate to find another nice apartment.  It was comfortable, affordable and closer still to the beach.  In fact we gained an extra bedroom; see how these things work themselves out.  It was on 4th street, west of Lincoln, still in Santa Monica, always in Santa Monica.

This place had a nice living unit on top of the owner’s garage which was divided into two rentable spaces;  a single unit and a family unit.  The owner of the property resided there as well but in the single family dwelling up in the front.

We had the larger of the 2 units and next-door to us was already residing a caucasian man, older than me to be sure but hardly a senior.  

Everything was good as we went about our daily lives; my going to work, the normal mother at home stuff for Diana and going out to the park and beach as often as possible with the kiddos and my wife.  We always enjoyed these outings, the kids loved it as much as we did.

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