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.

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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. 

 

 

 

 

 

78. Naval Clearance & Not-so Scary Neighbors

Day to day life is running normally, anyway as normal as one’s idea is of that.  My children are growing into their own sense of self and Diana and I are getting to know one another on yet another different level.

Somewhere in the telling of this year 1965, a cousin of mine came over from Fiji, their ship stopping in Los Angeles en route to Great Britain.  She brought her son with her as they were moving to London.  The ship arrived at eight in the morning and would leave at five in the evening sharp.  The very same as in Fiji; remember reading about that?

I went to the docks at San Pedro and picked them up and brought them home to meet my family.  Of course I made them a nice Indian lunch too.  It was a wonderful visit and getting news of the family directly from a close member made it all the more special.  Diana really enjoyed meeting someone from my side.  In the late afternoon we took them back to their ship.

Not too long after seeing my cousin my eldest niece (my brother’s daughter) who was also traveling to London to marry and start her life, stopped here in California and we did the very same with her.  

More current news of home, a loving embrace from a dear one and another one to meet my family; my nieces and nephews were just like little siblings and the smaller ones, like kids to me.

And now to a deeper degree I’m realizing the depth of my longing for the bond of my family back home, especially after those visits.  I began contemplating how I would get back to Fiji for a long overdue visit; how could I do this?

To undertake this journey would involve a good chunk of change and that would be a bit harder to come by now that I’m raising a family.  Then I remembered how my working on the ships got me around well, why not do it that way?

I shared this thought with Diana and she agreed, it was a smashing idea.  Ah but how would I do it from here in America … probably not the same as when I applied in Fiji.  Diana showed her enthusiasm by reaching out on my behalf for information.

She found out it would be necessary to first contact the US NAVY for clearance followed by applying for a union card.  And the union end of things would have to happen up in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Subsequently I’d have to find a ship which would hire me and take me sailing … or some such water adventure!

One day we left our kids with Susan (who was visiting us every weekend anyway) and the two of us drove south to the Naval station in Long Beach.  It would be the Merchant Marines with whom I’d be making application.

In the process I was given paperwork, information and instructions and I was directed to return as soon as possible with a photograph to be used on the US Navy clearance identification card, should I be accepted.  

At home we discussed this option further; what all would it entail and make solid the decision once and for all if it really was a step I should take.

In agreement on the subject we returned to Long Beach with forms filled out and a bit of underlying excitement to go with.  We waited patiently in the reception area.  They called me up.  I was informed I’d receive my security clearance to board any US ship and was handed my United States Naval clearance ID card.  

Wow! with a little extra adrenaline pumping and feeling pretty special, we left there happy and hungry.  We decided to stop for lunch before returning to Santa Monica and our kids.  

C - stawberries & coffee

With that part out of the way, I relaxed and returned to the daily normal routine, that being still going to work at the Santa Ynez Inn up PCH and playing daddy, husband and son-in-law.

A few weeks later we found out our neighbors would be moving out.  An opportune vacancy at the Euclid apartments and right next door in fact at that, the only other apartment.  

It was a spacious 1 bedroom unit.  Diana and I both thought right away to tell Susan about it.  My wife’s little sister Lisa had been wanting to move out to California (she had been recently divorced and was now doing the single mom thing) and so in this convenient and happy news, her mother absolutely wanted it!

I discussed this possibility with the landlady and after a brief moment of thought, she said it was actually a very wonderful idea; she liked the thought of family close and being there for one another.  Delighted we all were.  The landlady told us she’d need 3-4 weeks to prep it after the current tenants moved out.

Everything was quiet on the ship subject but to be sure I was waiting to hear about one going to Fiji especially now that I had the sense of security that would come with Susan living next door.  

As you’ve probably figured out by now, I would be taking this journey to Fiji alone.  For this being the only feasible way to get there, the rest of the family couldn’t go.  Diana really seemed to be quite all right with it all.  She knew how much I missed my family, especially my mother.

And so the days went by as they tend to do; we made sure to take the kids to the park and beach and much as possible and usually followed by ice cream.  If I was at work, the ladies still took the four children to the park.  You know we were all just busy enjoying the lovely southern California weather in between the days of our lives.

The living arrangement with Susan and Lisa next-door worked real well, an added sense of security if you like, especially on those late nights at work that kept me over night at the Inn.  You may recall reading in a previous post that I had access there to a room at the graciousness of the owners.

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74. Really, What Do the Stars Have Planned Next For Us?

I opened the door to see a couple of smiling police officers.  They were there to gather our information to make their incident report.  They informed us we may have to appear in court at some point.

The next day a nicely suited man came to our apartment to talk with us for a bit.  He actually said many sympathetic things including, Somebody was definitely looking out for you and your family.  Diana and myself couldn’t agree more with that statement.  

He also mentioned there had been complaints filed against this man in the past.  He shared it was felt this man wasn’t entirely stable.  The nice young detective also apprised us a little of this man’s past saying, he and his family had pulled up stakes out of the southern U.S. to settle here in California.  

The police would hold him for his hearing in 10 days.  “…looks like he’ll get a couple of years.”  For us it seemed there would be a few quiet days and nights ahead, thank goodness.

We spend one more Christmas at the Pico apartment building when we realised we’d have to make yet another move.  Things generally speaking were pretty good but as the rent increased my salary just wasn’t quite enough, at best it was about $350 monthly.  

Little did I know I was also about to switch jobs.  So I say we were very fortunate to find another nice apartment.  It was comfortable, affordable and closer still to the beach.  In fact we gained an extra bedroom; see how these things work themselves out.  It was on 4th street, west of Lincoln, still in Santa Monica, always in Santa Monica.

This place had a nice living unit on top of the owner’s garage which was divided into two rentable spaces;  a single unit and a family unit.  The owner of the property resided there as well but in the single family dwelling up in the front.

We had the larger of the 2 units and next-door to us was already residing a caucasian man, older than me to be sure but hardly a senior.  

Everything was good as we went about our daily lives; my going to work, the normal mother at home stuff for Diana and going out to the park and beach as often as possible with the kiddos and my wife.  We always enjoyed these outings, the kids loved it as much as we did.

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