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.

|||


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. 

 

 

 

 

 

65. A Haunting Melody & Roller Skates

I asked Diana if she’d like to double date with my friend Dave, whom she was now familiar with through her questioning but hadn’t yet met, and his girlfriend.  

Diana was more than willing and somehow I just knew she’d be game.  Dave told me about a fairly new movie, Summer Place which he’d been wanting to go see.  He thought this was a perfect date movie and the four of us should go together.

Saturday evening came and Dave picked up Diana and myself in mom’s lite blue Ford Fairlane 500 at the now regular meeting spot (Chevron) and off we went to catch the movie.  

At the box office Dave insisted on buying our tickets.  I protested but he told me straight, “No.  I invited the two of you to join us.”  And once inside he also wanted to buy sodas and popcorn for the four of us.  

Anyone of you reading this now, who has seen Summer Place with Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue knows this is quite a romantic movie (at least back in the simple day).  I tell you I was not expecting the 🎶 music to strike me just as it did.

A melodic musical piece, the theme song 🎵 from this movie became our own personal theme.  ♥️ It acted as glue binding us together; it was haunting and magical.  Of course I had absolutely no idea that was coming. 🌹

To say the least we all enjoyed the movie very much.  By the time it let out we were very hungry.   Dave took us to this drive-up restaurant and I‘m pretty sure it was the Tiny Naylors on Sunset Boulevard.  What a treat this was for me, why I’d never seen anything like this before.

The waitresses were uniformed real cute, taking our order and serving us right at our car, all while on roller skates.  I have to admit I was impressed.  That whole experience was lots of fun for all of us.  Oh to be young and having a carefree time of it!

Once again Dave opened his wallet but I had to stop him.  I could see it in his eyes when he smiled that he respected my gesture and so he backed down.  I covered Diana’s and my portion of the bill and of course that pleased me.

We drove around a bit afterwards but all that sitting was causing a lazy feeling.  Dave dropped us both off at Diana’s apartment.  She invited me to stay with her and I end up spending the night.  

Both of us clearly, equally hungry for the human touch, affection and possibly even love. ♥️ Summer Place was the beginning of Diana’s and my relationship.

|||


melodic musical pieceto this very day, that piece of music makes LBM’s eyes water, he gets all choked up and he’s gone …back to those days.  

I just brought the theme from Summer Place up on my computer for him to listen to as I finished up this post.  He tries to say something not realizing that his voice would come out cracked.

Music is definitely magical, this I know for a fact.

He tells me,Right up to this very moment, wherever I am or have been, a shop, restaurant, hotel, walking down the street passing by a record shop, whatever, wherever I overhear this piece and I’m instantly transported to that very same Saturday.  It never changes.  It keeps happening, never failing.  

“It’s as though I can touch it but only with my heart.  I go to the very place in time and we are all 4 together, I relive it happily.  Then I see I am with Diana right through the night, moment for moment and into the next morning (which came too soon).”  He then finished with,…it is like a gift.  You know, the one that keeps on giving.”