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.

 

68. My First Love Calls Me Back

I found myself missing the northern California city by the Bay just a bit …apparently I really did leave my heart in San Francisco.

C - View up to Coit tower -signed

Diana’s father Ralph was working for McDonnell Douglas and had been a divorced man for a while now so he had a little extra room in his home.  That turned out to be a big help for us when we returned from our Mexicali adventure.

Ralph had previously made the offer to shelter us and so Diana and I moved into his place, temporarily of course.  I’m so glad I got along famously with her father, really blessed.

Diana and I talked between ourselves and with her dad about what we ought to do next and it was decided fairly quickly, less than a week in fact that we ought to give San Francisco a try as a newlywed couple.  Why not? With a little guidance from Ralph we made the choice to move.

My father-in-law took a couple of days leave and drove us up north.  We got a hotel room and Ralph spent the night with us before turning around and going back to Los Angeles the next day.

We were pretty lucky in that in 2 days time we found a nice apartment up on a hill, it may have been on Ellis.  This was absolutely perfect. A furnished one bedroom, one bathroom with a kitchen, living room, yes it had a great view and there was a staircase leading up to the roof for even more enjoyment!   

One evening very soon after settling into our apartment in San Francisco the two of us were discussing employment.  I told my wife I should try the Italian restaurant where I worked before; I felt confident about the way I left their employ and I near completely trusted they’d take me on.  

I then suggested to Diana she try for a position at the Government of India Tourist Office (at 685 Market Street), the very same one I used to walk past nearly everyday.  She smiled bright at the thought but then said, “You really think they’d want to hire me, a non-Indian?”  

I reassured her this: with all I knew of her uncanny knowledge they’d be fool not to take her on.  I took hold of her hand, ‘How could they not want you?’  Well, that smile increased across her face and her confidence rose tremendously.  Diana has always been very intelligent, she knew I was correct in theory and well, that settled it.  The next morning we hit the streets of San Francisco together taking the bus down to Market Street.

After a brief interview Diana was hired on the spot.  They asked her to start that very next day. I know we were both pleased but she was extremely happy because she could now really put her knowledge to practical use and get paid for it.  We were both feeling pretty fantastic about things.  And it was also nearing lunch time, you know what that means!

We walked towards the ocean and over to the Italian joint I worked at before.  It was crowded but we got a counter seat. During the course of our meal, a couple of employees had recognized me, said hello and before I knew it the manager had come out to the dining room to greet me.

He approached with a big smile and reached out to shake my hand heartily; evidently he was happy to see me again.  He smiled at the lovely lady seated beside me and naturally I was real pleased to introduce my wife to him.  

Clearly he was happy for me.  He asked if we were in town just visiting and I told him we had moved up here.  “Are you interested in working?” came out in conversation and of course I responded, that would be desirable.  

The manager stated there were no openings at this city location.  However before I could pull too large a frowny face, he advised me to take a short drive south near to the airport, South San Francisco to be exact, and check in with their family owned second location.  

“They sure could use your help there.  I’ll call the manager and let him know you will come in …if you’re interested?” he finished with a sharp Italian smile.  We both nodded our heads and it was settled.

The next morning Diana and I left at the same time and after she got off the bus to go to work I made my way to Mission Street to take a bus heading south.  That’s it, one bus caught on Mission took me straight there, talk about convenience!

I was rehired at the Italian joint by the family at their second location, brought in as wait-staff and it was the perfect setup to pull in really great tips.  The boss here was a great guy too.  His employees were well taken care of, meals were included everyday and he often had parties up at his ranch to which he sometimes invited his employees and a guest.  

Life back in the arms of my first love was working out very well for me and my wife.

Not too long after we were set in our routine, I met a nice young Mexican man at a bar where I sometimes stopped in after work to have a cold beer and play some billiards.  We got to talking after he had asked me to shoot a game with him.  He asked if there were any openings at the place I worked.

Within the week there actually was an opening and I told him about it.  He went and applied and ended up getting the job. Good for him, glad I was able to help someone out.  He had a car and before we knew it, we had the same shift (breakfast and lunch) and we began carpooling to work.  Now I’m being helped, nice!

It wasn’t long before most of my friends from my previous life in San Francisco and I were back in touch and they started coming around again.  At first it was comfortable enough, there were delicious crab curry nights and always some ice cold beers to go along with that spicy 🦀 curry.

Now the scene was this: the guys are still single and eventually it began to make Diana uncomfortable and to be honest, myself included in that statement but just a little.  As for my wife, she was overcome with her emotions, her hormones and very soon it was discovered she was pregnant with our first child.  Understanding this from experience, I surely didn’t misunderstand her state of being.

I think it must have been her maternal instincts causing her to experience a driving force to return to Los Angeles.  As it turned out she’d received news that her mother and sister were also moving back to California from the Midwest.

We talked it over and it didn’t take much for the two of us to be in complete agreement.  It was going to be better for the both of us and our coming child to have the love and help of some family.  It would be her family’s first grandchild too.

For good references down the road, we gave proper notice to our employers and landlord, we both worked through the holiday season into the new year, Diana was in her 2nd trimester of pregnancy and we were making the preparations to return to the City of Angels.  

It was near the end of January in 1961 when we were back in the county of Los Angeles. As before we were welcomed with open arms by her dad for as long as we needed it.  In about 2 weeks time we were able to accomplish a lot.  We moved into a sweet little cottage set up in the back of a private home, just near to Montana, above Wilshire Boulevard on 20th Street and this was conveniently close to her father.

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Government of India Tourist Office 🇮🇳  (this particular office in fact) in the 60’s displayed in advertisement the ‘great sport of shikar’.  The goal was to entice the public to come to India and partake in killing the magnificent tigers of India, purely for one’s hunting pleasure and their own profit of tourist rupees no doubt.  I want to make clear neither LBM, Diana or myself support such a thing, never have.  It is shameful and regretful this ever happened.  I understand ‘Project Tiger‘ was launched in 1973, a conservation effort by the Indian Government but the damage had already been done.  I am glad to know India is taking this conservation effort even more seriously than ever to protect these beautiful wild cats.  To the best of LBM’s recollection, at the time of Diana’s employment in 1960, these advertisements were not yet posted.

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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