91. “We’re Americans, Don’t Shoot!”

Day 5:  Sài Gòn.  Two of us, my cabin-mate (I’ll call him Phil) and I are busy sucking down a few ice cold beers in one of the bars and as was becoming the norm, flanked by local femme fatales.  Before we realized how late it was, already we had broken the curfew missing our boat back to the Trans Western.  

Desperate to get outta there we made quick inquiry for a way to return to our ship, to anyone who’d listen.  We needed someone with a boat who’d take us out to the anchored ships, for pay of course.  One Vietnamese man with very little English stepped up to the job.  We three made haste to his boat.  

So now we’re putt-putting through the dark waters under black velvet skies, studded with stars brilliant as diamonds.  I see little twinkling lights of the ships anchored all around the harbor.  

In my mind I’m thinking, how on earth are we gonna find our ship in all of this?  They seem so close to each other from a distance but as we get nearer, they’re all really far apart from one another.

Marines on constant patrol are no doubt hearing the putt-putt of the small gasoline engine of this little man’s smallish boat.  Suddenly there were two spotlights splashing us in harsh white light and our boatman quickly shuts off his motor; he definitely doesn’t want to get his ass shot off in any language, of that I’m sure!

Feeling the panic, Phil thinks quick and takes off his tee shirt.  He stood up and began to wave his white shirt, “Don’t shoot, we’re Americans!” he yelled out in fright.  I didn’t think twice and removing my shirt, I too stood up and did the same. ‘Don’t shoot, Americans, we’re also American!’  

We’re waving our shirts and they’re getting closer; upon reaching us, I’m guessing they relaxed only a small bit, assessing we are most likely harmless.  

They cuss us out. “What the hell are you guys doing out here after curfew …(then pointing the barrel of their guns at the boatman)… with him!?”  ‘We missed our boat outta town and … and we made a desperate decision’, I nervously explained.  

They talked amongst themselves for a moment and then ordered us to climb aboard their boat.  The Vietnamese man was also brought on board.  His little boat was tied up to theirs and after identifying us with our ID cards, we were transported to the Trans Western.  

Boy did we get an ass-chewing and that was just by the Marines who picked us up!  The Skipper had yet to have his go on us.  Upon arrival we had to of course, be re-identified to the guard soldiers on board our ship; up the rope we went.  

The patrolling Marines left with the little man still in their custody; I’m thinking most likely they escorted him back to shore.  This type of scene may have happened to others before us and most probably would occur again in the years to come.  

Phil and I made tracks for the mess hall.  All this excitement made for a great appetite.  A few of the Marine soldiers were down in the galley enjoying some grub.  

We made fresh coffee, tuna fish sandwiches with some crunchy pickles and proceeded to eat as though that would fix anything.  I tell ya, what a night!  To our immediate relief, the Skipper’s ass-chewing was not on tonight’s menu.  

Retiring to our cabin I was on autopilot until my head finally hit my pillow and I was able to think for a moment.  I was filled with gratitude that my butt was not blown to bits by the US Marines!  Or anyone else for that matter.

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66. A Sense of Belonging …

From Summer Place forward, Diana and I went out and around with one another every weekend.  We were certainly entertained enough with what we were doing together yet we hadn’t committed to exclusivity.

Then the time had come in both our minds that I should meet her family.  Her parents were previously divorced and so it would be one at a time meetings.  Besides that her mother and sister had returned to the Midwest after the separation.   

I met her father and I felt he approved of me, at the very least, as his eldest daughter’s companion.  Now I said it this way because interracial relationships were still not easily accepted.

The only real prejudice I had previously encountered in my life was that over religious views.  California was certainly more relaxed than say, the Midwest states where her parents were raised and there was just a little concern that her relationship with me might’ve been frowned upon.  

We weren’t discussing marriage or anything and she assured me that her parents were well aware of her lifelong interest in all aspects of foreign cultures; this shouldn’t be too difficult for them.  

Well the fact is we got along quite well.  He really liked me as a human being and I felt him to be genuine.  One day he invited Diana and myself to dinner at a real nice restaurant in Westwood Village.  

Halfway through our time there at the table, Diana’s father gently placed his hand on our waitress’s hand when she stopped by, yet again with her very big smile and he said, “Doris I’d like you to meet someone.  You already know my daughter … and this is her wonderful friend, Parma.”

I knew it!  I had been pondering the obvious friendliness between Diana’s dad and our waitress.  Maybe they were just casually flirting? I thought.  Here it is, confirmed.  He had a real nice friend there who quite clearly was looking out for him and as a bonus, a nice 20% discount (he told us later) whenever he dined there.  As a single man that turned out to be quite often.

My days and nights moved along at a steady pace and that brings me around to the autumn.  🍁 One day a tenant called me to help her move something heavy in her place. I accidentally left my apartment door open when I went there.  In that time frame someone came into my residence and stole a few things.

Naturally I was alarmed and informed the owner of the building.  She in turn released me from my position and I found myself suddenly unemployed.  In fact she took me to court suing for I cannot even remember what but the judge dismissed the charges.  Apparently he had better things to do.

I say take that whole scenario any way you will because I know what I thought about it.  As might be expected I filled ‘mom’ in on what happened.  In her ever-luvin’ way she said to me, “Honey you never mind all that, I’ll fix things up for you.”  Mrs. Elson had another set of friends up Hollywood way and I found myself in a similar situation up there; resident caretaker of tenants.

As was anticipated Diana and I were still right on track even though we weren’t as close, geographically speaking.  She remained in Westwood and I now lived on Sherbourne Drive.

I was given a nice furnished studio apartment and also had a sort of guardian looking out for me.  This would be an older lady, a very dear friend of ‘mom’ – she’d call me over to her place for coffee or something to eat and ask me how I was getting on, a personal evaluation if you will.  

And Dave’s mom still called up regularly to check on me. We certainly didn’t want a repeat of the previous scene.  Speaking of Dave, we still found time to hang out together and we were both glad of it.  And whenever I could I’d give him advance notice of Diana’s visit, he’d happily make arrangements for the 4 of us to double date.

Out came the lite blue Ford Fairlane 500 again and off we’d go!  A favorite place of ours to dine at was up Malibu way. Just pick up your rotary dial telephone and place the call to GLENWOOD 7 2567 for your table!  We’d take the drive on Pacific Coast Highway to Trancas Restaurant at Zuma Beach for the best swordfish steaks ever.

Back up into Hollywood, the tenants of the building I looked after were nice people.  They all seemed to have everything they needed and most of the times, I was just called upon to help them bring up their groceries from their car.  

And though not in lifeguard capacity, I attended the swimming pool too.  I really felt comfortable here in Hollywood.  Yes the Hollywood of the late 50’s … hindsight, where are you?

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GLENWOOD 7 2567      love those phone numbers of the past.

64. Diana

Next day.  As per my new routine, I made my rounds about the complex after breakfast.  I thought to give Dave a call and share with him my meeting of this young lady on the bus, whom I shall here name, Diana.  The call would have to wait till the afternoon as I knew he would be out during the morning hours – no cell phones yet.

Upon returning to my apartment, out of boredom I skimmed through some of the magazines there on my coffee table while listening to the radio.  Now what?  I rested for a little bit.  Oh yes I would call ‘mom’ and fill her in on my day up till the moment; to tell her about Diana or not, hmmm.  I would tell Dave first.

He was already home by now and Mrs. Elson called Dave to the phone.  I took a deep breath, ‘Okay Dave, don’t make a big fuss but …I met a girl on the bus.’  He gave a light-hearted laugh and replied, “Hey that’s great!  What did you guys do?”

I gave him a detailed account of how we met including our exchange of contact information.  I told him that she seemed interested in me I felt due to all the questions she asked me; where was I from, what do I do all day, and asking as many get-to-know-you questions as she could.  

Both our days had already been planned out and so we wouldn’t have any more time to spend that day.  Then Dave suggested that we should double date.  I was confused.  ‘What the hell is a double date?’ Dave just laughed at me!  

Then he explained it was more of a comfort thing.  “We would go for some dinner, take in a movie, go dancing or head out to the beach, whatever we like really.”  We could do anything as a normal date but we’d all go together and make a day or night out out of it.  “See the comfort?”  Well I really liked that idea.  

Dave and I finished our call.  In the late afternoon I decided to call Diana.  I asked her if she’d like to meet for some lunch or something.  She excitedly agreed.  We would meet tomorrow then.  She asked me if I knew the Chevron gas station on the corner and I said yes.  “Good,” she replied quickly, “meet me there tomorrow at noon.”

I had a date!  That night after my dinner and evening rounds of the property, I stayed in just taking it easy, doing much thinking about various things and listening to the radio.

Next morning routine the same although now my step was lighter.  I was definitely happy about meeting with Diana for lunch today.  

Noontime was just around the corner and with one last check in the mirror I headed out the door.  We arrived at the Chevron station at nearly the same time, both of us hungry for an adventure and some lunch too.

“If you’re interested I have a great place we can go for lunch,”  she proposed.  I was open to suggestions.  “They have the most marvelous turkey burgers!” Diana claimed.  With a big smile I told her, ‘Let’s get going then.’

We walked to this establishment, it was only 3 blocks away from where we stood.

Diana showed me the burgers on the menu and getting the feel for what I might enjoy, she then ordered for us.  She requested my burger to be well-cooked and ordered coffee for me.  She had a milkshake with her burger.  

She was absolutely correct, I really enjoyed that burger!  We were clearly entertained by each other’s answers to random questions in between bites and sips getting to know more about one another.  Lunch was my treat although she did make the hand on the check gesture, something I certainly was not used to.  

Afterwards we walked around the village for a little while.  We both had so much to say and there was never an uncomfortable silence between us.  I offered to show her ‘…from the outside,’  I specified this politely for her comfort, where I was living.  We walked that way and I showed her.  

“You could walk me up to my place and see where I live too, if you like,” she offered in return.  And so we walked up the hill to her apartment.  Diana asked me then if I’d like to come in.  ‘Of course, I would love to.’ I did not hesitate to reply.  

It was a nice little place.  She mentioned that she had a student from India staying with her at the moment.  It was a one bedroom apartment and the girl slept out on the sofa.  She was in class at that time, so it was only the two of us.

We sat and talked for quite awhile.  In there somewhere she made something for me to drink though I cannot recall now if it was hot tea or something cold; irrelevant I’m sure.  I looked around the room and noticed a lot of her decor reflected the Indian culture; travel posters, fluffy colorful pillows, books and what not.  

I asked her about her obviously immense interest and knowledge of things Indian.  Diana proceeded to explain that she gathered much information from her roomate.  She’d also studied through many books and asked a lot of questions of Indian students who’d give her the time of day.  Many did as they seemed to enjoy her interest in their culture as well as the attention paid to them.

The afternoon was effortless.  After a while I knew it was getting late, the light outside was changing and although her roomate had not returned, I knew I should be going back.  Besides in the back of my mind, I gave thought to the owner of the apartment complex might be looking for me.

The attraction between Diana and myself was definitely mutual and when I saw the opportunity to go in for a first kiss, there was no hesitation from her, only magnetic attraction and it was very, very nice.  We found ourselves holding on to one another; it was secure and exciting all at once.

Forcing a break at last from the comfort of the cuddle, I got up to leave.  Diana walked out to the street with me, hand in hand.  In parting she said to me, “I’ll stand right here till you’re down the hill.”  We shared a goodnight kiss or two and more hugs.  

It felt as though we both knew one another for a long time, the comfort was incredible and then I walked away but not before assuring her that I’d call her again.

In about fifteen minutes I was home.  What a day!  I was feeling really good about the time spent with Diana.  I slept peacefully that night.

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