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.

60. No Matter, I Love San Francisco

© Golden Gate -signedSomething changed inside of me but at the time I didn’t realise this.  I loved San Francisco and I continued to enjoy being there.  I made a point to walk the Golden Gate Bridge for leisure with a thousand thoughts racing through my mind like the choppy ocean below.  

One of those swirling emotions was in regards to Noori.  By now I had written to her a few letters.  Of course I could only mail them to my family home and trust that my sister or mother would be sure to give these to her.  But you know I never, not once received a reply.

Down the road a ways I heard many tales of what happened in her life since I left.  It’s really quite saddening because I couldn’t help as a lot of us do, to think, ‘what if?’  

It was around mid-summer when I changed jobs from the Italian restaurant and through the Union I moved uptown into a position in a very nice hotel.  There was a lovely American restaurant on the rooftop level, the 17th floor as memory serves and well, that was a good experience to have.

I left the Italian joint under very good circumstances.  They were all too happy to provide me with a letter of recommendation as well.  It had been a good relation; roughly 6 months of employment and all good memories.

Even though I am not able to recall the name of that beautiful hotel now, what I remember most about working way up there is how much I always enjoyed the view, oh the view!  

By now you should know how much I absolutely loved watching all the ships coming and going through the Bay.  And at night I would be mesmerised by the lights on the Bay Bridge.  What a treat as far as I was concerned.  Very nice.

Back to my new position.  The food in this establishment was top notch, spread out in a delectable buffet.  The selected dishes were of excellent quality and the clientele definitely had the wallet affording to pay for that phenomenal view.

I was quickly flowing with the hotel restaurant staff, customers and management and yes I’ll admit it, I was loved.  I made an hourly wage and kept my own tips and really good tips they were!  I stayed employed here about 4-5 months.

I still enjoyed the occasional ‘joyride’ on the cable cars, heading out to the turnaround point at Market & Powell Streets.  I loved helping turn the car and waiting for people to climb aboard for the traditional thing to do in San Francisco.

When some friends and I would head out to Fisherman’s Wharf, we were going not for the fish but for what we thought was the best pizza and ice cold beers.  Saturdays however were reserved for crab eats!

I’ve been living in the city for all of the seasons now and winter was once again setting in.  It would be cold earlier than later and I remember my friends and I walking around the city and always realising ‘suddenly’ that it was so cold!

We would pop into an inviting coffee shop, plug a nickel or three into the jukebox and enjoy a hot coffee or chocolate to the sounds of Ricky Nelson, Dean Martin, Elvis, Patsy Cline, Frank Sinatra, well you get the idea.

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