85. Open Sea Routine

First full day out on the ocean and with the Golden Gate’s disappearance into the now east, so to had to go my thoughts of what’s to come.  Well, at least on hold in the back of my mind.

It was time to go full steam ahead in the expected routine of my job which has only slightly varied from when we were at docks.  The transition was smooth enough as far as I was concerned, demonstrating to the CS I knew my assignments very well.

After breakfast our Chief Steward calls a meeting of kitchen staff, chef included.  “Things change a little now that we’re out to sea, you’ll find the law is different than when we were at dock.  Trash of any kind and especially cigarette butts will never be disposed overboard, is that clear?  There is a proper place for everything and I do mean everything!”

He went on, “It’s now time to get dressed up real warm ’cause we’re gonna stock the deep freeze and the main refrigerators.”  Coats, beanies and gloves were provided and we quickly bundled up.

The supplies that were loaded prior now had to be put away in orderly fashion; items must be readily available.  Bottled water, juices, milk, meats, veggies, etc., no hassles and wasted time trying to locate anything.

“Consider one of the engine room guys coming into the kitchen for a drink or snack, they shouldn’t have to waste time searching for anything in the refrigerators, so organization is always priority,” the CS spoke as he pointed out where to place the various items.

The boxes were opened, the large freezer and fridge shelves were stocked and the empties were broke down flat, bundled and placed in the holding spot.  At the next port they’d be removed.  The dry pantry was handled the same way minus the coats, gloves and beanies of course!

3rd day – our Chief Steward calls everybody to gather.  We would now receive instructions for handling a case of emergency.  An alarm was sounded. “Line up on deck and wait for the 1st or 2nd Officer’s instructions.”  

In each of our cabins there was a life jacket for every individual.  “Do not stop to put it on.  Grab it and get topside asap!  You can put it on as you go or once you are up on deck.   We will do this drill every third day.”  

I realized quick enough we’d be eating real good on this ship.  You say you feel like having a pork chop, the kitchen obliged by sending out a hot plate with about a half a dozen of ‘em!  There was no chance of anyone dining alone because someone would catch a whiff and be beside you in no time flat, sharing in the delights.

Away from the kitchen CS had the linen closet key so I always had to ask for that; seems like we had greater concerns than to worry about linens disappearing – oh well.  At least three times a week I’d change out the sheets and towels I used, all of us being responsible for our own.

Making certain the Skipper’s quarters were always clean and amply stocked with the necessities for his comfort was another factor of my duties; remember he was my personal assignment.

Daily routine breakfasts, lunches and dinners.  Once in a while the Skipper would make casual conversation with me.  I was the only Hindu person on board his ship and he asked me if I was actually from India.  I shared with him the short version of being born and raised in the Fiji Islands.  He was kind enough and for his liking, our Captain soon nicknamed me ‘Fiji’.

Coming out from one of the cabins, Nancy Sinatra’s hit single, “These Boots Are Made For Walking” sounded throughout the corridor -other tunes too but that one several times a day.  

Two of the deckhands, a middle-aged man and his son from the southeastern U.S. were the occupants of that cabin and this seemed be their favorite song.  It didn’t take long for that tune to stick like flypaper in my brain and to this day, it surfaces at the funniest of times.

My break after the lunch service was always a breeze, kickin’ it on the aft deck.  Often I’d get to see various fish leaping from the water and capturing my attention.  Otherwise I gave in to a sea of thoughts.  And in the evenings I anticipated with great pleasure, the sunset.

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These Boots Are Made For Walkingreleased in November of 1965 and was written by Lee Hazelwood.  By the end of January, 1966 it had topped the charts taking over the  #1 spot in both the U.S. and the U.K.  Cinema utilized the song in Full Metal Jacket, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and most recently in Ocean’s 8, just to name a few.

 

63. Life Begins in the Village

Early this morning I had decided to explore the downtown Los Angeles area.  Dave had given me some ideas and I was looking forward to discovering more about my surroundings and especially on my own.

It was what I thought to be a hot morning and I just knew it would be a perfect day.  I walked through the Village on my way to a bus stop on Wilshire Boulevard.  I knew to go east as west would land me at the beach!  Not a bad choice either but today was for concrete.

I boarded the downtown Los Angeles bus and chose a window seat towards the rear.  After a couple of stops an attractive young lady boarded the bus.  

I noticed her taking a quick observation of the scene and as there wasn’t a whole crowd of faces to sift through, she spotted me, I know she did.  At first she walked past me and then turned around and stopped where I was sitting.

“Would you mind if I sat here?” she asked me as she held onto the back of the aisle seat now that the bus was rolling again.  ‘Not at all,’ I replied looking up at her.  

She took the seat and we sat silently for about another minute.  

“Are you from around here?” she asked me, breaking the silence.

‘No actually I only moved into the Village a few days ago.’  And then I boldly carried on.  ‘Before that, for a few days I was in a motel room not too far from here and I had come directly there from San Francisco.  Now I’m living on Gayley.’   

“Oh I live on Gayley too!”  we both smiled and she went on, “Where did you come from?” and before I would answer,  “Are you from India?”

‘No, I am not from India,’ I plainly countered.

She appeared a little surprised and then stated the question, “You are Indian, yes?”

‘Yes I am. Full-blood Indian.’  And now she was clearly more intrigued.

“Well then, if not San Francisco and not India, where are you from?” she questioned me.  

‘I came from Fiji Islands landing first in San Francisco.’  I explained, ‘I lived and worked there for nearly a year.  I then decided to come to Los Angeles and find an old friend of mine.’

“How do you come to have this friend here in Los Angeles?”  still another question from her; I think I am now being interviewed.

‘He is a pen pal from long ago.’   I told her in response.

She listened very intently and I amusedly thought to myself, this girl is computing all this information into some formula or another.

“Fiji Islands?” she asked me thoughtfully.

‘Yes.  Do you know where that is?’  I asked her.  She said to me that she believed it was in the south Pacific Ocean.  I smiled with delight and then added, ‘That’s right and so you have a better idea, the closest large land to us is New Zealand.’  

It was once again quiet but for only a few moments, both of us absorbing information perhaps.  A little more conversation transpired in the next moments.  She then took out a little notepad and began scribbling in it.  I of course thought nothing of it.  

This young lady then tore the page out from the book, folded it and handed it to me.  I opened it up to look at it and there was her telephone number and address.  

She appeared over the moon with our dialogue and said, “Here’s my address and telephone number in case you’d like to have coffee with me some time – we could continue this conversation.”

I asked her for another sheet of paper and taking out my pen from my shirt pocket, I scribbled my contact information and handed it to her.  I could tell this gesture pleased her.  

My randomly chosen bus stop somewhere in the middle of the city had arrived, I excused myself and we said our goodbyes.  Clearly we were both tickled pink for the sudden spark of dialogue and the thought of where it might possibly lead.  fullsizeoutput_2054

I walked around without aim for about half an hour and then my nose caught a delicious smell.  I thought to keep walking but after about half a block this aroma got the better of me and I did an about face.

First I looked into the giant pane glass window of the obvious restaurant and noticed the crowd.  Then I spotted the buffet laid out in what seemed to be the middle of a large dining room.  

I had the feeling this was something like one of my favorites in San Francisco, Cliftons.  I entered without further resistance.  I paid the cashier $2.38 -the sum keeps coming up strong in my mind so I believe that is accurate.  

Wow what a spread, so many salads, soups and delectable hot items.  All kinds of most everything I would hope for; various beef, chicken and fish preparations, rice, potatoes, breads (the great American diet, right?), things I couldn’t identify, desserts and drink choices too.

I spent a leisurely near two hours there, taking my time, tasting everything and getting a good dose of people watching as well.  I believed I was witnessing many an American family up close and in the course of their mealtime normalcy.

When at last I knew I was done for, it was time to get some fresh air.  I walked around observing the city of Los Angeles’ life around me, window shopping and taking notice of all the lovely old buildings of downtown.  

This took me another hour and half into my day’s adventure.  And now I was feeling tired so I resigned to call it a day.  I caught the westbound bus along Wilshire back to Westwood Boulevard.  That’s where I got off to walk to my place in the Village.

No sooner I got into the door and my phone rang.  “I was trying to reach you all morning,” the voice said on the other end.  I didn’t offer much information of my whereabouts but offered my ‘how can I help?’  It was the woman who employed me.  

She called to tell me about a certain tenant whom she wanted me to keep a closer eye on.  “They’re a rowdy sort and I want you to tell me if there’s any trouble.”  I assured her I would of course.  All this would figure into my daily life in the village, Westwood Village.

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61. A Surprise For Dave!

Those days, after more than a year in San Francisco I began to feel like I stepped into suspended animation once again.  I concluded my life wasn’t moving forward.  True there’s always various options one could look into; these eluded me in that moment of my existence.

I found myself just hanging around and not doing much apart from work and roaming the city.

It was roughly a little more than a week after that first trip into the Los Angeles area when I realised this young man from the Fiji Islands was craving the warmer climate of southern California.  You’re surely not surprised are you?

By the end of the 2nd week I had given notice to my employer.  Leaving the hotel restaurant in good standings as well, I offered to stay with them till they replaced me.

Autumn was definitely in the air when I bought my one-way ticket on the Greyhound bus and headed down to Los Angeles.  I got off the bus at the Santa Monica station.  After a little searching I found myself a motel room for about $2.75 per night.  This was on Wilshire Boulevard in West Los Angeles, a nice place to be.

I would stay there for about a week.  Settling in the first thing for me to do was take a walk.  I returned to the room feeling relaxed.  Turning to the pages of my little notebook I refreshed myself on a couple of goals.

Before I left home my brother had suggested I carry this with me at all times as it would prove really useful.  “Write our home address in it just in case you suddenly feel like sending home a postcard,” he told me.  The first Palm Pilot right?  

One of the things on my to-do list was to try and find a treasured childhood friend, made through the mail.  Yes I’m talking pen pal here.  It sure would be nice to meet him face to face.

I inquired with someone as to the location of the address.  Go close to Overland and Pico someone said.  “This street you’re looking for will cross Pico Boulevard and then you’ll make a right turn.  From there it may be another mile or so,” another friendly face told me.

Someone else said to take a bus and go towards Rancho Park Golf Course.  I was directed east.  Well there was no shortage of people willing to give me directions.

Once I finally arrived in that neck of the woods I popped into a local business asking for continued directions, just to be sure you know.  One man in this little store told me, “If you’re walking it’ll be a ways.”  Well I was prepared to take the walk that might lead me to a childhood friend;  this was my only plan for the day.  

Eyeing me out of curiosity I think, he continued, “First there will be a golf course, don’t worry the street will give way into a residential area.”  A couple more directive words and I was set.  Thanking him I left his shop and began the longest part of my journey.  

And once I made that right turn I passed the golf course everyone seemed to mention.  The road started to slope a bit and then it went up again.  I began looking at the house numbers.

I had walked and walked but as I was taken in by the the layout of the neighborhood I didn’t really feel the distance.  

At last on my left hand side I came upon the address I’d been hoping to find.  It was a wonderful white painted, single story home.  So there it was, the actual home of my un-met friend, my pen pal of years past.  

I stood silently there for quite some time wondering what I should do now.  A hundred thoughts raced through my mind … what if?  What if it’s the wrong address?  What if the people inside think I’m a bad person and shriek in fear?  What if …?

I finally pressed the doorbell button.

It must’ve been nearly 3 minutes before I heard anything besides my own heartbeat and that was the click of the door.  Well that certainly was enough time for my nerves to be in more of a spin than they already were.  

A beautiful lady cautiously opened the front door and only slightly at that.  “Can I help you?” she said.  Stunned – I said nothing for a moment.  I wanted to say, ‘Mom.’  I was beginning to feel all too strange but I pushed myself to say something,  ‘I am looking for my friend.  This is the address I’ve got for him.’

“Who’s your friend, have you a name?” she asked me with the door still ajar.  I nervously replied, ‘Dave? David.’  Her eyes grew bigger yet she was listening to me in quiet thought I suspect.

I bravely continued to speak, ‘My name is Parma and I’ve come from the Fiji Islands and now to Los Angeles to meet him …’ and then my voice sort of trailed off.

She turned her head slightly towards the inside of the house and said in a louder voice “Honey! Dave, come here!”  Soon the door was opened a bit more and a young man was looking at me with the same wide-eyes (apparently he was recognizing me from the earlier photos I had sent to him in our communications).  

He said with a brightly lit face, “Mom!  This is my pen pal Parma!  We used to correspond when we were so much younger, remember?”  Instantly her face showed immediate relief and the door opened wide.  ‘I told you Dave, someday I will come and meet you.’  

I was practically rustled into the house with overwhelming affection.  Only once did his mother call me by my name because after that it was, oh honey this and honey that and on and on and lots of hugs too!  Imagine how the questions flew around in all directions that afternoon.

And when his dad came home, his surprise was worth a thousand dollars as well.  He had entered the living room simply expecting the normal evening when his eyes fell upon me.  “Who have we here?”  

I stood up right away and Dave taking the cue also rose and immediately introduced us. “Remember dad how I used to correspond with a kid in the Fiji Islands years ago?” Dave asked his father.  

Mr. Elson looked thoughtful for a few moments and then his eyes lit up like a Christmas tree, just like Dave’s had earlier.  He couldn’t believe it either.  This family truly welcomed me and yes, before dinner was even finished, I was asked to call them only mom and dad.

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Parma (that was a nickname Dave used with me and I absolutely cannot seem to remember how that came to be).