89. Quy Nhơn Chicken 🐓

In conversation with Chief Steward the next morning, he liked very much the thought of tailor-made slacks too.  He asked if I wouldn’t mind taking care of the transaction for him.  I offered a smile attached to a ‘No problem chief!’ and so he scribbled his measurements on a slip of paper and handed it to me with a few dollars from his wallet.

It may be only the 2nd time I went ashore but it felt like I’d already done it a hundred times.  Hot and muggy was the forecast for, like the entire time I would be here so naturally there was an ongoing thirst for ice cold beers!  🍻

Upon reaching shore, my first order of business was a detour to the Indian shop delivering CS’s order and measurements.  I was told 36 hours should see all the slacks ready.  

The first establishment we chose to walk into had a few people sitting at the bar, others were seated at tables; the majority of bodies being young Vietnamese girls and music played crisply out of a jukebox up against a side wall.  No sooner we sat down at a table, we were flocked by some of these girls.

In what sounded like their best broken English they’d proposition us to buy drinks for them.  They took our drink requests which would only be beer 🍺 and went up to the bar.  No hard liquor or sodas even were served here.  

It would seem the sodas were reserved for drink in the cafés.  I gotta say, these bars certainly knew how to grab their share of business from the foreign visitors! 🍹 The girl’s drinks we bought for them (later we learned) was simply colored water and each one cost near twice the amount of our beers!  

In our socializing I learned the power of the American dollar in Vietnam;  approximately $5.00 would cover feeding their entire family for a week and the impression we all got was they’d pretty much do anything for these dollars.  

Some girls smoked our cigarettes and others did not but all were quick to light ours for us.  They were skilled in giving a nice little massage here and there, arms, shoulders, neck and/or running their fingers through our hair.

I smiled big when I looked at one of the guys across the table from me … his eyes closed in sheer delight and grinning away as the girl on his lap was massaging his brain!  

The one girl attentive towards me began massaging my head, gently pulling on my hair (which I had lots of it), of course it felt nice. 

The guys and I continued to talk amongst ourselves for the most part as we could tell they weren’t about to leave our company so easily.  It was of little matter to them as they too conversed amongst themselves. 

“Tonight you stay with me and you pay,” one would say to her guy and another would verbally climb over that (sometimes literally) and using as persuasive a voice as possible, “No! You come with me!”  We each heard this approach circulate around our table.

🍻 After a few beers and a considerable amount of dollars later, I noticed it was getting dark.  We all agreed it was time for food. A couple of us made sure to keep an eye on the time, curfew is definite, there was only one boat back and make no mistake, we’d best be on it! 

The girls collected a few dollars from each of us and a couple of them went quickly outside, coming back with some freshly prepared chicken for us to eat.  

It was made in a street kitchen just outside the bar.  Of course they ate with us.  The chicken was flayed open, seasoned, cooked between two racks over an open flame and it was delicious. 🍗

“Now we go home.” they’d say to us, gently tugging at our arms.  “No, no! We’ve got to get back to our ship!” protested a couple of the guys; definitely speaking for all of us in the group. 

We promised them we’d return tomorrow and breaking free at last, we headed as swiftly as possible through the town and down to the beach.  

We remained in the Qui Nhơn harbor for just over a week.  The best description of my daily routine on the ship; same, same.

Every early evening almost immediately following the dinner shift and next morning’s prep, I’d scurry down that rope ladder to catch the boat into town.  

Returning to the same bar as before, these girls who overnight became our friends, were waiting for our return.  

On the fifth day I picked up the slacks; lookin’ good!  After the shopkeeper showed them to me, I paid him and he wrapped them up so nicely, knowing they would have to travel a very long way.  

I asked him to wrap up the Chief Steward’s slacks separately.  I noticed the shop had some postcards amongst their wares so I bought a few;  one for Diana and my kids and some for the family in Fiji.  

Back at the bar which we had made our own for the week, our company had now become more like one on one, no longer flanked by many.  We’d play the jukebox, dance with the girls, eat chicken, socialize, drink beer, and generally let our hair down as it were; wanting only a little bit of fun and relaxation.  

We remained diligent to the curfew at the end of every evening and always managed to wiggle away from our friends just in time.

A couple of days before our ship pulled up anchor, I was able to send out those postcards from our ship’s post office.  By now I was confident that half of my ‘war-zone pay’ salary, the 1st paycheck, was already on its way to my family in Santa Monica, via the pay center in New York.  

You know I felt great that I was providing for my family even while on this other side of the world but I never thought my life would go down a path like this one.  

While I cannot even compare to the soldiers’ lives here in Vietnam at this time, I certainly was learning to understand a small piece of it.

|||


A coastal town located in central Vietnam, Quy Nhơn wasn’t established as a city until 1986 and it is home in the Bình Định Province. 

 

 

 

 

 

71. It Didn’t Take Long to Fill the Second Order

Our son Amar Saint Stephen was such a cute little kid, perfect skin tone and lots of hair.  Did I already say that?  Oh no that was actually about myself, many posts back!  But yes, Amar did have lots of hair and he had a sparkle in his eyes.  

In gazing into those eyes, my, my it looked as though they may turn green or blue, I thought.  Diana’s eyes held blue with the occasional green sparkle.  And perhaps I was searching a little to see well, what I would see.  I felt I should do all I could so that his spirit would know how welcomed he was in my heart, in my life.

C - Will U Check or Mate?

It might sound like silly wishful thinking but I felt like I got my son back.  It was my turn to make a move on the chessboard of life.  I felt as though he waited till I was better situated before he would return to me.

My employer always had a taxi pick me up, taking me to work and at shift end, another would bring me home.  Maybe once or twice in a work week I was fortunate enough with a shorter shift allowing me to come home in the afternoons.

I might be able to play with and take a nap beside my son.  Mainly though it was the evenings when I came in through the door at the end of my work day.  Amar was almost always already asleep.

And more often than not, I’d already had my dinner at work.  I toiled many hours but it was worth it money-wise, experience in the culinary aspect of things -not that I was training to be a great chef or anything- and of course to maintain the great health insurance.

When Amar cried in the middle of the night, Diana would get up with him.  Naturally she breastfed and was not minding this at all.  I’m so glad she very willingly agreed saying she wouldn’t have it any other way.  She taught me very early that it was smart to take a nap when the baby did.

We were becoming parents in a time where feeding babies with bottles was taken to like wildfire and in truth, it had been popular for quite some time by now.  

Credit where it is due; yes it’s convenient so that others can participate if need be and/or if the mother is simply unable to.  But for our family, I am pleased we chose and were able to feed the baby the natural way.

Amar was growing stronger and more lovely with each passing day.  There was little doubt as to the parents well-being either.  No time wasted, not with these wild parents, ha ha!  I told Diana, “I am putting in an order for a daughter!”

We both agreed a girl would balance our family.  And it didn’t take long for that order to be filled.  Diana being most fertile, she became pregnant while Amar was only near three months of age.

We had to make a residential adjustment during this time and ended up in an apartment building at 612 Pico Boulevard, directly across the street from Santa Monica High School.  This would be where Amar had his 1st Christmas and five months later, our 2nd child would join the family.

It was 17 days before Amar’s 1st birthday when our second child arrived.  It is now the spring of 1962.  She landed at six twelve in the evening to be exact and it was the Saturday before Mother’s Day.  Is it no surprise then that the moon was aligned with the birth of my daughter; 62% of the moon was illuminated -the temps were in the low 60’s.  

We welcomed into this world a little girl, just as we had ordered.

I remember telling Diana that I wouldn’t have to bring her a Mother’s Day gift because she just received a little package wrapped in pink.  We were both overjoyed, as was the rest of the family.

Asha Saint Monica was beautiful of course, she’s my daughter!  She had big brown eyes, good skin tone, a French looking face (her mother said) and lots of hair, just like her brother.  Diana assured me this labor was by far the easier one.  We were both glad of that.

During this time, Amar was being pampered in his grandparents’ home while Diana was in the hospital with our daughter and I went to work.

|||