88. Cash & Tailors

 

I climbed down a rope leading into the boat which would take us from our ship to the Qui Nhơn Harbor shore.  We didn’t tie up at any dock instead, the boat took us aground into the sand.  The trap/exit door opened up and we’d jump out onto Vietnamese soil.  We walked up the beach and into Qui Nhơn town.   

Being hyped up right from the start, I felt a little scared but it was certainly comforting knowing that I was never alone; we were always in one another’s company …mostly.  And as we walked, carefully at first, thoughts of what the Skipper and some of the Marines had told us, rushed to the forefront of my mind.

Absorbing the street scene crowded with men, women, children, the young and the old, I began to relax;  they were basically just people like me. There was plenty of street cooking which smelled amazing and lots of little shops and bars.  I felt eyes on me.

I’d see them waving in order to attract us into their shops.  Thinking of the families back home, I saw some things which interested me such as handmade trinkets, clothing, jewelry and the like.  

I detoured with a couple of the guys into one of these places, a tailor shop.  The tradesmen were Indians, like myself. Why I found this as a surprise, I do not know.

And perhaps we were obvious as new to the area because almost immediately, we were asked to join them in food and drink.   “Let’s talk, have something to eat and enjoy.”  They actually closed the shop for a couple of hours.

After a shared meal and hearing the stories of where we came from originally, how we found ourselves in this little corner of the world etc., they asked us, “What can we do for you … what would you like to buy?”

From these Indian tailors, I would buy a couple of slacks.  As measurements were being taken I asked,  ‘Aren’t you afraid to be here in this war zone?’  

The shopkeeper reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of cash from both pockets.  In his fairly decent English he explained, “Of course we’re scared sometimes but this is home.  If we must run suddenly, at least we have our money with us. My wife and kids do same. It’s how we handle.”   I remember thinking to myself just how fascinating living a life this way is.

After a much enjoyed evening in comforting hospitality of the locals, we knew it was getting late.  With the Skipper’s speech still fresh in my mind, it was definitely beach time.

Making my way there I remember looking at the sights along the way and thinking of the fun time ahead tomorrow.  At the shore we were just in time to hear a Marine’s voice blaring through a bullhorn, “Load ‘em up!”

Several of us to include guys from some of the other ships in the harbor, climbed aboard this fairly large boat and off we went.  Each various group would let them know which ship they had to return to. I called off the Trans Western.

Thank goodness for our Marines for in this dark night amongst all the boats anchored offshore, there was no way we ourselves would know which one was ours.  We arrived at our ship and quickly climbed up the rope ladder.

Myself and the other guys headed straight for the mess hall to raid the refrigerator and pantry for a late night snack before turning in.  The chef had tuna salad and fresh breads waiting to be turned into midnight sandwiches.

A full day it was and I was more than ready for some snuggling down in my bed.  That’s the sum of my first day in Vietnam. Not bad at all.

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56. Cable Car Turnaround

Next morning after breakfast I went out walking in the direction of Powell Street.  I saw the cable car come down to the bottom there at Market Street.  I saw then this was the turn-around point of the cable cars and I joined in to help.  

Yes at least back then we would join up in the effort to turn the cars.  That was fun, it was.  I hopped aboard, paid my fare and rode out in the direction of Ghirardelli Square; Powell-Hyde line I believe.

First time I ever ate pizza!  What a big slice I got too and it was filled with lots of good stuff for only .25 cents.  Pair that with an ice cold beer and I was all set to watch the boats and people go by.  

Kind of familiar to me it all seemed as this scene reminded me of sitting on the wall on Marine Drive -the Queen’s Necklace– in Bombay, nearly three years earlier.

I noticed some people looking out to a small island.  I went over to see what I would see.  There was a big sign which read:  View Alcatraz the Federal Prison through Powerful Telescope  

Alright this ought to be interesting.  Like some of the other gazers I put my eye up to the telescope and saw an arresting prison situated on an island rock.  

I heard people talking about some notorious criminals housed there.  For a  moment I felt as though I might be in a Hollywood movie.  

After hearing about the sharks, the frigid waters with treacherous currents and the dangerous prisoners I was so glad I was well behaved!  I hung out for about 3 hours because I was really enjoying myself.  I thought it was all very beautiful.  

Finally I thought to change the scenery and so I caught another cable car back towards Market & Powell Streets.  I caught the next car towards Fisherman’s Wharf.  

As I’m walking towards a large pier, on the right-hand side of me I notice a sign in a window across the street.   It was of a little turbaned Indian man Air India’s logo I believe The sign was bright and colorful and lived in the India Office of Tourism.  The depiction was worth a smile.

Now the stomach has begun to direct my steps once more.  I kept walking towards the ocean.  An Italian restaurant to my left took my attention so I went in.  

There were many customers and I always thought that to be a good sign.  I sat myself at the counter, reviewed the menu and decided on a sandwich and some soup.  It was pretty good.

There was another sign –that’s 3 for todayin the window:  HELP NEEDED  Really?    Wait Staff Needed / Mon-Fri / 6a-2p

I was interested enough to inquire with the management and after a few questions, I was hired right on the spot – what a day!  The pay would be $1.75 per hour + tips to keep my own and I would be paid every two weeks.  

I was advised to immediately to join the Culinary Workers Union – gotta pay union dues in the San Francisco Bay Area.  

As I said before, what a day!  After all this I felt like a real good walk and so I did.  I walked back to the hotel and called it a day!

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The Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union  (HERE) was a United States labor union representing workers of the hospitality industry, formed in 1891.