67. Amigos & Coo Coo Rachas

‘What do you think about getting married?’  Diana was really happy about this prospect and had no hesitation in starting a life of permanency with me.  I knew it would make my mother happy to hear that I wasn’t alone anymore.

I asked how we would accomplish this marriage.  I had told her father about my previous marriage in Fiji and that I hadn’t received official documentation of our divorce being finalized.  Whether or not it was Ralph who advised us or another, I cannot remember and really it doesn’t matter; it was suggested we take a trip south of the border and get married there.  

With her father’s blessing the two of us went to Mexicali.  It was a hot July, the weekend of the 4th to be exact.  We took the Greyhound Bus all the way. The further southeast the bus travelled the more arid we became.  

It was very late in the day as we arrived in town so the first thing we did was get ourselves a motel room.  We cleaned up, cooling off as best we could and then set out to find our evening’s meal and the justice of the peace.

We asked any and everyone who we thought might be of assistance, where the courthouse was located.  It actually wasn’t that easy getting someone to respond with a little English (besides taking our order for food in the restaurant).  

Finally someone did respond and we were thankful.  The next morning we made our way to the courthouse -it was already blazing saddles hot- and inquired with the clerk.  

He told us the judge couldn’t be located this morning and he very well may have taken the day off.  Wait, what?!  Then he told us that he’d go have another look around, maybe he’d find him.

He returned to tell us he found him … a few dollars later.  Yes it was a good thing we each changed up a $20 bill to single ones, it was just a hunch but nonetheless glad we acted on it.  The clerk told us the judge will be in the courtroom shortly. We just look at each other.

We did meet him in the courtroom.  The judge told us that we needed to have 3-5 witnesses; did we have them?  No. He told us there were always people just outside who may be convinced to come in. “You will have to pay them,” he told us dryly.   We just look at each other again.

Now I was thinking about the amigos Diana and I saw hanging around outside the building, would they really want to join us?  The judge sent a different clerk outside to gather some of them. He returned with 3 sun-stroked looking men.

Or was it simply siesta time already.  Either way they approached the magistrate and he looked at us with a simple finger rubbing thumb gesture.  We knew right away to dig up some dollar notes.

I set $6 into the clerk’s hand for the men.  He took it up to the judge. Each of the men signed a piece of paper, were handed their money and left the courtroom, one of them slightly smiling and acknowledging Diana and myself as they walked out.

The judge then called us forward to his bench and continued the process in pretty good English, the standard marriage vows (in Baja-California anyway).  After the ‘I do’s’ and his declaration of our marriage, we kissed, hugged and then had to sign the certificate.

He reached into his desk pulling out a stamp to which he then applied the ink from a pad on his bench quite deliberately, stamped the certificate firmly and applied his signature within the stamp.  Before handing it to us he did the ‘gesture’ once again.

I placed some bills onto his bench.  He handed us the one piece of paper and Diana immediately suggested we have a copy as well.  She asked him if we could get a copy and for a moment he didn’t answer.  Then he rubbed his index finger to his thumb and Diana handed him two dollars.

He went into the back and returned with a copy.  We stepped outside as Mr and Mrs Blue Masala. It was even hotter than a devil’s armpit now that the sun had pretty much reached its zenith.  

I remember being extremely thirsty, we both were to be sure.  Diana noticed a little market across the street and we made our way over.  Oh my goodness!  see the coo coo rachas scatter across the street everywhere.

I bought 2 bottles of ice cold 7-Up and stepping back outside with open bottles, we cheersed our green glass together and tipped up till we emptied them.  Gotta say, that felt really good!

We had planned to spend that night there as well and to call it a honeymoon?  I guess for now this would have to do.  We caught the bus the next morning back to Los Angeles and to a celebration with her dad and his ‘friend’ Doris.

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45. At Last I’ve Been Dealt the Perfect Hand – Friday morning

January 1959

Friday morning at last and yes, go to work.  It would only be for an hour and a half and I absolutely wouldn’t be late for my 10a oath swearing!  This time I had asked the boss, Mr. W for the rest of the morning off.  

He must’ve figured I had some courthouse stuff to tend to.  “Go on then Nand.” he said with a casual smile.  Mr W was a genuine soul, a very good man.

I headed out for my 10 minute walk to the consulate’s office.  After Theresa acknowledged my arrival with a smile, I sat and waited for a few minutes.  She then called me to the back office for my appointment.  

In my presence the gentleman briefly looked over everything one more time and said to me, “Mr. Masala.  I see you’ve paid your fee and we’ve got your valid passport.  Along with all the proper forms and required documents, everything is in order and you’re well on your way.”  My excitement was mounting and it was time to take my oath.  

Yes and while this whole thing took place ever so long ago, I can tell you it consisted of this basic idea:  to uphold the laws of the United States of America, strive to be a model resident, and not take advantage of the system but earn the privileges.  One day I’d be able to apply for citizenship through the process of Naturalization, etc …

This gentleman then signed a couple of papers, put everything into an envelope and sealed it officially.  He reminded me to not open it.  “It must only be opened by the immigration officials in Honolulu at which time they will issue you the proper identification, granting you legal access to reside and work in America.”  

My face was a tale of delight to say the least.  I stole a quick glance Theresa’s way with a satisfied grin.  She was smiling.

The officer continued, “God bless you Mr. Masala and all the very best to you.  United States is a big country,” he spoke so sincerely.  “Good luck and be sure to make the best of what America has to offer you.”  He shook my hand firmly and honestly.  I was moved by this experience I tell you.  

I came out of the office with Theresa and into the reception area.  I was on a cloud for sure! and it was time for me to be on my way.  I wanted to say goodbye to her with a hug, I was so happy you know.

Instead, I thanked her warmly for her wonderful help.  “Good luck with all you set out to do!  I have faith in you Mr. Masala.  There’s a part of my that still cannot believe the speed with which you did this!”  Her smile was infectious.

“I’ve got to tell you, after the determination you’ve demonstrated with all of this, I know you can make it big!”  And there was my verbal hug.

C - Salinas mountains' Honeysuckle -signed (12 x 18)

What a morning!  I returned to work.  I felt all eyes on me, at least on the big envelope under my arm.

Jules knew what it was and I’m certain she quickly read the look upon my face and came right up to me with a great big hug.  “Nand I cannot tell you how happy I am for you!”  

Back in the workshop my uncle asked me what was in the envelope and I said, ‘It’s my visa to take to the United States!’

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44. Mr. Masala is Free! sort of…

Since my first appearance before the judge, I paid my court ordered alimony payments and always on time.  

And not that I’m making any choices based on this; I also happened to discover that my hopefully soon-to-be ex-wife was actually in a relationship with the previously mentioned handyman.

How about that, my suspicions seemed to now been justified.  Or they just fell into place, either way.  I’ll do you one better, he’s living in the house with them.  

Oh, touché.  Looks like we both found plaster for a broken marriage.  

Feeling rather done for a few reasons, I flat out refused to pay November’s payment to Hemma or anymore for all that matters.

Prior to this decision I had made request for appointment to see Judge Sandy to appeal my case and it had now been granted.  I also made up my mind to represent myself; I felt I was my own best lawyer after having counsel with 2 other members of the bar.

On that day in court I declared I would no longer pay.  ‘Send me to jail if you have to but no more.’  I was brief in my statement and in that I made sure to mention Hemma moving that man into their family home.  ‘What is the point your honor in my financially supporting that?’

With a look on his face I loosely translated as him finding humor in my plea, he announced he’ll take his pause to review the case file.  After a few restless -on my part- moments, he asked me to rise for his decision.  

“Mr Masala, I‘ve decided to free you from the payments to Mrs. Masala.  However in order for that to happen you must first bring the payments up-to-date.”  

And there you go.  I ended up having to pay that November payment which I earlier defied to do.

Judge Sandy finished with  “And I’m granting you the legal separation.  Divorce is still not an option at this time.  As I mentioned before about the waiting period, that is still in effect.”  

I felt happy and sunk at the same time.  

“Other than that, now you can go, you are a free man Mr. Masala.  You can even leave Fiji if you so desire.”  Gavel banged on the judgement desk, I’m semi-free.

Okay yes, I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders as I stepped out of the courthouse that morning.  It was as though I was 18 again and no longer a stressed out adult, at least not on that front.  

Hey, I’ll take it!

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