75. Cry Baby, Cry!

1963 – it was in the beginning of October when we discovered Diana was once again with child.  Thankfully I was still working at the Hotel Miramar and this, so close to home.

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One day our landlord informed us of our (one and only) neighbor making complaints to him, about us.  To be exact the man next door said there was too much noise coming out of our apartment. Really?

He said our neighbor stated, “The children are always screaming, the baby’s crying and I can’t get any sleep, they keep me up all night!”  What?  

I looked at Diana, she at me, we then looked at him and both said in surprise, “The baby’s not even here yet!”  The owner assured us he knew what the man complained wasn’t entirely true.

“I can see that your baby is still baking,” gesturing with his hand towards Diana’s belly, he spoke with a smile of confirmation.  He also told us he knew the man enjoyed the drink rather a bit much.

Diana spoke up as any defending mother would, “I promise you our kids are very well-mannered.  They play quietly for the most part, more so than most anyway.”

Once more in agreement the landlord said, “We have not heard your kids screaming at any time.  Of course children will make noises and occasional squeaks. We all know this.  My wife and I have the impression this man isn’t completely stable.  It’s rather sad.  We were hoping he’d always just live quietly in his own space and mind his own business.”

And that’s probably exactly what this man was trying to do but the little squeaks and occasional louder squawks were possibly not doing him any favors.  We’ll never know.

More curious than ever and fueled by the knowledge that our neighbor was not pleased with us, we’d look out in his direction more often.

I’m sure you can understand why.  After what my family and I recently experienced at the Pico apartment, there was a slight hovering factor of uncertainty.

This man lived alone and never really seemed to come out of his apartment.  He was an older German man, tall and of medium build.  Diana being home more than I told me that whenever she saw him which was rarely, he always wore his large military coat, even in the heat of summer.  

Diana said she wondered how he ever got food into his apartment as she never saw him bringing up any groceries, nor was it noticed that anyone visited.

Well, now that you know what I know of the back story we’ll get to the interesting part.

It wasn’t long after the landlord spoke to us when one day this man came to my front door and started pounding severely on it.  It didn’t even start off as a friendly little knock.

You know the kind, pounding which suggests, “Hey it’s getting a bit loud over here.  Would you mind keeping the little brats quiet?” or something to that effect.

No gradual escalation, just straight up violent.  Of course Diana didn’t open the door … he’d go away.  Then about 2 weeks later, wherein he had done this same thing a couple more times, we’d had enough and placed our own complaint with our landlord; this was becoming a very uncomfortable situation.

It was the wee early hours of the morning when I was startled awake by what sounded very much like a gunshot.  No one came busting in through our door or windows so I wasn’t too concerned and fell back asleep.

It was about 9:30 in the morning, we were up of course, when we heard a serious pounding on the neighbor’s front door and apparently after no answer, the sound of something being busted.  

I’m saying it was the front door being kicked in.  Shortly after that there was a serious knock on our door.  It was the Santa Monica police asking us if we heard or saw anything during the night.  I told them I thought I heard something like a gunshot.

Not much later, two detectives came to us and asked a few questions.  It turns out this neighbor of ours wrote a final note, took his Luger pistol and ended his own life.   What?

A terribly sad thing about all of this -aside from the tragedy itself-  is that his note stated he couldn’t take the noise of the crying baby any longer.  Our son and daughter were 3 and 2 years of age at this time.

Diana and I both witnessed the sheeted body being brought out of the apartment, not giving us a good feeling at all.  And then it happened.

The man’s body must’ve not been securely strapped on to the gurney because as the coroner’s staff started down the steps, to our and everyone else’s horror, the body slipped right out of their control and completely off the gurney.  

It was surreal almost, seeing the corpse in a bit of a rigid state, as it tumbled down the stairs.  Just try to picture the scramble which took place right afterwards and so I’ll leave it to your imagination.

Suddenly Diana burst out into a hysterical and seemingly uncontrollable laughter.  It must’ve been a whammy, what else?

While there weren’t any immediate neighbors, the ones in close proximity were chatting away after the fact.  Diana spoke for a few moments with them.

Naturally the police had asked them too if there was anything noticeable about the man, providing any clues to his state of mind.  One person said they were aware that he seemed to always be upset.  

He briefly spoke to that person at some point saying, he was upset by his neighbor’s crying baby.  He said he couldn’t sleep at night.  This person said they told the man to look at Diana’s belly and he’d see for himself that the baby hasn’t been born yet.

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73. It’s Always Hit Or Miss With A Swerving Angel

Our friends next door hadn’t been home all day, there was no hope they’d heard any of this.  And after what seemed like hours of anticipating a certain death, sirens began to pierce the air, a lot of sirens.  

Snapping the both of us back into reality because mark my words we were fading into a dreamlike state; a wave of relief washed over the both of us.  I could see the color race back into Diana’s face.

I looked out of the window thinking I’d see squad cars racing into the alley below and while I didn’t see any, the sirens were louder still.  They had arrived.   

Surely our neighbor had dashed back upstairs as usual when the sirens came.  I heard the many footsteps racing up the flight of stairs.  

612 Pico Boulevard #8A very loud crashing sound followed; the police must’ve busted down his front door.  There was no polite knocking on their part, not since a gun was reported this time. Reported?  

Oh my goodness! the man in the alley.  He must’ve taken action after all, conveying our unfortunate situation to the police.  Bless you sir, to this day, bless you!!  That swerving man must’ve been an angel in disguise.  And fortunate for us the Santa Monica Police Station wasn’t but about ½ a mile to the northwest of us.  It seemed as though the odds tipped to our favor.

We stayed in the bedroom until there was a solid knock at our front door.  I got up and went to peek out the curtain.  I saw three officers standing there.  Feeling largely comforted and still quite shaken, I opened the door.

They were of course checking on us to be sure no one was hurt and to let us know the man and his weapon were apprehended.  Our neighbor was being brought out of his apartment in cuffs and just as they were coming down the steps, I took a curious glance upward past him,  to his front door.

The woman and teenaged boy were standing there watching and then the young man began to curse at me, threatening that he’d come after me.  One of the officer’s directed me to remain inside my apartment at least until they had the man in the squad car.

I went back inside and closed the door.  Diana was already in the living room, standing in anticipation, children safe in the bedroom.  So it seemed the worst was over.  While my wife and I were taking deep breaths and discussing the moments, there was another knock at the door.

Our hearts both skipped a beat at the same time, I’m sure.  I got up and first did the curtain peek thing.  Diana had already went and stood at the bedroom door … just in case.

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48. All aboard!

First thing I did was surrender my suitcase at the entry level and having checked my ticket, it was accepted and my hands were free.  I came back down to the wharf where my family and friends, who had come directly to the docks, were waiting.  

Saying the this-time-for-real goodbyes to the family before climbing the gangplank was rough to say the least, especially seeing my mother’s face and knowing this was, once again, tearing her up … it hurt.  

Then there is my sweet Noori.  I was closest to her now than ever before and knowing how dearly she loved me didn’t make this farewell any easier.  

The loudspeaker blurted out the commencement of pre-boarding for those passengers who were already residing on that ship from the previous port.  My heart skipped a beat and I can only imagine what my mother, sisters and brother and Noori’s hearts were doing.  

“Send us a postcard!”  someone said.  “Don’t forget to write!” said another.  “Remember us and return soon …”  trailed another voice.  It was time to say our final (such a word!) goodbyes.  

One by one I went to each person, young and old, hugging, kissing and wiping tears and making the repetetive promise to take care of myself and return sooner than later.  

Do you know there were a few of my family members whom I had never in my life, witnessed them shed a tear up till just now.  How heart-wrenching.  It was a long line-up of dear ones and then I get to my brother and my sisters.  

I had never seen my brother cry either and in our embrace he poured which of course caused me to cry my eyes out too!  My dear sister-in-law stood by him silently crying.  To make her smile I told her I’d miss her meals as no one could touch her cooking where I was going.  It worked.

I gave my brother a personal promise; whether or not he wanted it I would send money to assist so that he wouldn’t have to miss me that way and I reminded him that I will definitely call for him as soon as I have settled.  

To my sisters I told them how much I loved them and would miss them (I knew my little sister would be the one writing to me) and to all my nieces and nephews I laid down the promise of goodies from America.

My mother, my dearest, most precious mother.  I don’t have to tell you about the nonstop tears there.  She said to me, “Maybe I’m not going to be here when you come back.”  What a stab in my heart, I had that coming.  

I knew I’d better say something comforting and quick!  ‘Amma don’t worry please.  I promise you as I have made the same to Noori that I will be back in two years to marry her.’  

Noori was naturally standing there right beside my mother.  That statement brought a gentle smile to my crying mother’s face … and to Noori’s.

It was nearly 4 o’clock and the steamship whistle sounded.  The call for all to board was heard and went through my bones.  Noori and I embraced, tightly, she cried a lot and we repeated our love statement for one another.  ‘I will see you soon Noori.’  I assured her and she assured me in return, “I will wait for you Gary.”

Orsova ticket to.. 1959I began my ascent of the gangplank and I could hear all the crying.  I made my way to the top deck of the ship.  Boxes of streamers were laid out for the passengers to throw as their departing gesture and final tie being broken … well that’s what it felt like to me.

I grabbed half a dozen of those paper streamers and made my way to the railing of the ship, obviously dockside.  The Fiji Military band had begun a tune and the mood was set.

I see my people down there on the wharf and I can tell they’re searching for my face among the many.  A couple of the excited children spot me waving and point me out to the rest.

The Orsova horn -that sound- was blasted again, twice.  It was 4:45p and the gangplank would go up in five minutes.  I hold one end of each streamer and then begin to throw them towards the crowd, in the general direction of my family and friends.

Then the departing song Isa Lei began.  A man had caught one of my streamers and as though by fate, handed it to Noori.  She may not have caught one on her own, I don’t know and I had no idea who he was.

The big rope at the stern was first released and the ship begins a controlled slip away from the dock.  The tears and emotions for nearly everyone present were uncontrollable.  It’s such a haunting piece of music and the way the lyrics are sung, one cannot help but to lose it.

Isa is God in Fijian.  A feeling of hearts full of pleasure and return right away and your absence will bring pain … that kind of a feeling, very haunting you know.   

“Why did you come if you have to leave …”

The band is still playing and the streamers have been flying.  Now the stern has been released as the ship pulls away under it’s own complete power.
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You know this goodbye with Noori reminded me of 1953, nearly the same scenario up in Vancouver with Sonia.  I had said to her I would return to her and that we would run away and get married.  Sonia had said she would hide me from everyone.  This felt a lot like the same and I really didn’t want to suffer that love lost once again.