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).

59. I’m Movin’ On Up!

I had put in just about three months work at that little Indian restaurant before it met its end.  Sometimes I’d walk past the establishment and see the sign still up on their window.  It was a bittersweet experience after all.  

In conclusion of the Department of Labor’s investigation, Jack and Bill were made to pay me an amount equivalent to that of lost back wages and I soon received a payment cheque in kind retroactive to my hire date.  

I continued to work the breakfast and lunch shifts, Monday through Friday at the hoppin’ Italian joint on Market close by to the sea and still pulling in a very decent wage.

I continued also to reside at Lalit’s hotel until about the beginning of May.  The time had come that I required a little more living space and so after a fond farewell to my first-ever landlord and first American residence, I moved my digs about 3 blocks up Jones towards Turk Street.  

Now I would pay a rental rate of $2.50 per night; yes I was still in a hotel but hey, it was spacious and I even had my own private bathroom now.  How ‘bout that!

I didn’t want to go too far away from the main bus line of Market Street; getting to work without freezing on the wide open street that Market is was indeed priority and yes, I did invest in a very warm coat.

I stayed on with the Italian restaurant about another 6 months.  One time I remember asking for a couple of extra days off; a Friday and a Monday so that I would have a long weekend to go off on an adventure with a couple of friends.  Thankfully this was not a problem for them; I was a loyal and good member of the crew after all.

The three of us took a drive south down the 101 to Los Angeles for a limited but leisurely  weekend, stopping along the way to enjoy whatever caught our fancy.  This would include scenery to be amazed by and filling of the car’s gas tank or ours.  Gasoline was about .25 cents per gallon at this time.  Remember the days of ethyl?

When we finally reached downtown Los Angeles, we were able to get a very nice hotel room.  Though it was costly between the 3 of us sharing it was easily affordable.  Wish I would remember the name of that place.  

We drove what we thought was all over, taking in the sights of the city of Los Angeles herself, dipping into Koreatown and Chinatown, though by no means would it compare in scale to San Francisco’s -we just had to know- and then off into Hollywood we went.

Speaking for myself it was a fun weekend, exploring a completely new part of the state and I’m beginning to feel as though California would become my indefinite home.  

I noticed the sunshine here in southern California felt just a bit different … warmer at least to me.  We also drove into Santa Monica and then visited the beach.  Of course we indulged in the usual beach food, hot dogs and what not.  

Back in the city of Los Angeles, the memorable meal of this weekend had to be at a cafeteria where we ate one of our meals in but again I’m not recalling a name.  It sticks in my mind however as an establishment serving very tasty food.

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50. An Unexpected Yet Benevolent Layover in Honolulu

🛳 My ship ticket was booked through only to Hawaii and then

The ship arrived in Honolulu and I was at the thrilling roundabout in my life; time to redeem my sealed envelope which carried the efforts I had been working on most of my life.  Standing in the immigration line still on board the ship, my adrenaline was certainly raised a bit more.

There was just a few of us and now it was my turn to come forward.  The sealed envelope was opened and along with my passport, I was recognized, stamped and received.  “Welcome to the United States.” the immigration officer said to me pleasantly.

I was given my golden ticket (legal resident-green card) and now I could leave the SS Orsova.  As I disembarked the ship, there was a line of island girls dressed in their grass skirts ready to greet us.  Aloha!  they warmly said to each one of us along with a few extra Hawaiian words I cannot recall exactly.  

Perhaps loaa i kou makaikai as they placed fresh and fragrant flower leis around our necks, each with a sweet and lovely smile.  Aloha indeed!  🌸

Going into the Customs Building I found a big locker to store my suitcase.  My flight was not until the night time so first thing on my to-do list, food!  

I called a cab and asked the driver to take me to a decent and nearby Chinese restaurant.  The man’s attitude was pleasantly laid back and he was more than willing to help.  He promptly delivered me to a street where there were a few eateries; I didn’t miss the Chinese writing on many of the business signs.  

I began to look into the windows hoping one would call to me quickly.  As I was looking into the window of this one restaurant, I saw how quickly the seats were filling – it was lunch time and now I am even more hungry because I’m smelling the food too.  

Remember I just disembarked a ship where I was constantly being fed!

As though breaking into my thoughts of a delicious lunch, the front door opened and a caucasian man stepped right up to me.  He said, “ I see you there and I think you were hoping to come in and have some lunch, am I right?”

I replied without thinking twice, ‘Yes I’d love to but I see there are no open tables.’  He smiled and said “Don’t worry about that, if you want you can join me as there’s no one else at my table.”  

I didn’t have to mull anything over when it came to the increasing sounds in my tummy and so with a gracious smile I went in with him, following him to his table.  We sat down and he handed me a menu.  He mentioned his order was already placed.  Right away I saw a couple of items I desired and ordered them.  My food came shortly after his hit the table.

He introduced himself as a basically retired U.S. Marine, having served during WWII and a few years after that; beyond Pearl Harbor, he loved the islands and decided to plant himself in Honolulu.  

This kind-hearted American man, James, would’ve been my dad, by age I mean to say.  He was at least 25 years my senior.  We enjoyed a wonderful conversation over lunch, and yes the food was good too.

James asking me where I was from, where I was going ….I told him I was from Fiji and he said, “Oh I know Fiji!”  and I told him San Francisco is where that evening’s flight would take me.  

Seeming slightly alarmed James said, “Oh Blue you’re gonna freeze over there, especially coming in from Fiji.”  I had to laugh at his unexpected concern for me.  

He thought to tell me that San Francisco is definitely into winter now and it’s very cold there.  He then made suggestion that I consider remaining in Hawaii, “…at least through the winter and let the western U.S. warm up a bit!” he said with a chuckle.

I thought that a marvelous plan but then I had to say, ‘I think that’s a great idea but I haven’t anywhere to stay, I mean to say I hadn’t planned on a detour.”

James didn’t miss a beat. “You should stay with me.  I have a big house and it’s only my wife and our dog.”  Say, that’s a fabulous idea I thought and said as much with a grateful smile.  I think he would read my face.

I agreed and we talked more about what he wanted to do to help me; he seemed to enjoy this very much.  James said he could take me to the office of employment and that he’d help me get on my feet in no time.  “At least we can try, right?” he offered.

James wouldn’t let me buy my lunch treating me as his guest.  That was such a nice thing and I was feeling comfortable.  We left the restaurant together and as we walked towards the parking lot, we stopped at a phone booth to ring up his wife.  He told her he was bringing home a friend for a couple of nights.

We first went to recover my suitcase and then he took me straightway to the Employment Office.  “Might as well get you registered right away.  We wouldn’t want you to miss any opportunities.”  Thankfully that was a fairly quick and easy process.

James drove me around the town, pointing out this and that and Pearl Harbor too as we went by it.  James told me he was grateful to have survived it but was deeply saddened by the losses, some very personal.  

After leaving the town area we began ascending the hills towards his home.  It was such a beautiful neighborhood, lots of green of course and spacious lots with large ranch-style homes neatly placed upon them.

I turned to look in the direction from where we came and the view was sprawled out clear down to the Pacific Ocean, truly a brilliant blue from that vantage point!

We approached a driveway which he turned the car into.  As we pulled in a car was pulling out.  “That would be my wife.  She’s gone to visit her family.”  He stopped in the driveway up by the front door.  

I’m sure you can picture this in your mind’s eye;  the circular drive, the small flower garden in the center and the relaxed laid out home, glorious in its day, fantastic today too I’m sure!  We got out and walked into the house.

James warmly welcomed me into his home, “Well here’s the house.  I’ll first take you to your room so you can leave your suitcase there and I’ll show you around.”  

As I am experiencing an American’s home for the first time in my life, I was wowed to say the least.  It was something like a palace of sorts to me; so spacious and well, just beautiful.  He showed me the bathroom, the kitchen, the den … do you remember dens?

He then walked over to his telephone and I took a seat nearby; at this point we were taking care of changing my flight.  He called Pan Am and after a few words like calling on behalf of his friend who’s feeling under the weather and needs to cancel his flight, it was done.

I remember thinking to myself about who this man James really is when I heard him say to the person on the other end of the line something about his military status, it somehow reassured me in a calm way; it was like he was well known or something.

While we sat in the kitchen I had a soft drink although he had offered me the run of his entire liquor cupboard.  “We had a fabulous dinner last night, are you interested or should we go out?”  James asked me.  

My honest thoughts; I didn’t have a lot of money in my pocket, he had already treated me so kindly and anyway I was feeling tired, I said whatever he had would be perfect.

He attacked the refrigerator breaking out all the goodies.  There was a large, neatly wrapped in aluminum foil package he opened up.  It contained several delicious looking pork chops.  All the trimmings were there and we feasted.  

🇺🇸 Good choice to stay in – first American dinner in an American’s home.

All in all it was a nice night.  I enjoyed it very much including an evening stroll around his property.  And this time I enjoyed looking at the island lights from the opposite end of where I had seen them before, for the very first time; I’ll never forget that feeling, that sight.

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James:  fictitious name for the real mcCoy!  What a sincere, caring human being and what a perfect welcome into American life!  

Sometimes we just cannot help but to say with a twinkle in our eye and a fondness in our heart, “Ah, the good ‘ol days!