Annapolis 40th Reunion for the Class of 1964 Part II

  • The famous Tailgate for the Navy Football team’s Homecoming celebration preceded the game against Delaware University. On a spectacular day, like many a perfect fall Saturday for any outdoor activity, with a clear blue sky and seventy-five degree weather, the tree leaves glistened with sparkling red, yellow, and shades of brown hues this glorious day, so different from our first drizzling grey experience upon arrival.

(Annapolis walking up Main Street toward State Circle: Click on all photos to expand)

Andy Douglas and his wife, Barbara, joined us for a walk through the city to the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. We purchased the tickets from another roommate of mine, Mike Pemberton, who had to offer them to the first buyer when he couldn’t make the Reunion.  Mike was trying to sell his house in Ventura, California and had unexpected delays. He and I communicated to arrange the transfer and ever since became golfing friends.

(Famous Naval Academy Tailgate Shuckers of Oysters)

Eventually we arrived at the Stadium and walked directly to the most amazing Tailgate ever. Under large white canvas canopies, tables with everything you might expect at ritzy Hotel Del Coronado stood inviting everyone. In the middle people hovered alongside a huge salad bar with strawberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, melon, bananas, mangoes, kiwi, pineapple, apples, oranges lettuce, olives, radishes, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, avocado, red peppers, bacon chips, walnuts, and a wide selection of salad dressings. At the end of the salad bar at least a hundred Bloody Mary cocktails stood waiting for takers at a table where many classmates sipped them mingling with the crowd. Caterers constantly replaced the tall concoctions with celery, olives and horseradish as they disappeared.

(Sumptuous offerings of the Tailgate)

So many classmates from other companies appeared I met friends I had not seen for forty years. Next to the Bloody Mary table, a man in a Budweiser uniform dispensed ice cold Bud Light or Michelob into convenient sixteen-ounce paper cups. To the right outside of the canopy three caterers shucked raw oysters they pulled from barrels of ice. The aroma of roasted garlic, fresh herbs, and oysters fusing into rich chowder lingered beside the shuckers in huge vats. A table with Styrofoam soup bowls stood alongside with plastic spoons, forks, and knives.

(Tables under Tarpaulin for Class of 64 Tailgaters)

A carving table for prime rib roast beef, smoked turkey, and spiral honey glazed ham stood on the other side of the salad bar with a table alongside for rye, wheat, and sourdough bread. All the condiments appeared alongside stacks of paper plates and napkins. Another covered area had more than fifty circular tables that sat eight tailgaters. The next table contained soft drinks, lemonade, ice tea, coffee, and stacks of plastic cups. Across the way, an open bar with bottles of red, rosé, and white wine invited all comers. Another table with vodka, gin, bourbon, scotch, and rum with stood next to another full of mixers and ice where many tailgaters gathered with drinks.

(Kathy and Rich Umfrid enjoy ice cream bars for dessert)

Ray Snyder I knew from the Academy baseball team, sat at a table nearby. He attended Long Beach Millikan High and played halfback on the football team and second base on their baseball team. Having tackled him many times as the safety for Long Beach Jordan after he broke away from our lineman, we had much to discuss. Fast, muscular, and always full of energy during a game and cool, calm and collected afterwards, Ray played any sport with intensity and great skill. He mentioned he had served as a Marine and lived in San Diego area. “Are you going to play in the alumni softball game with the other baseball players in our class?” he asked.

“I didn’t receive an invitation and know nothing about it.”

“That makes no sense. I’ll see what I can do to get you on our softball team. I can’t believe what an incredible Plebe baseball season you had. You hit everything they threw at you Plebe year!”

“Yeah, I had a great year then but after that I had to deal with Joe.”

“Joe never gave me any trouble.”

“I know you did well under him, but he got under my skin until I finally couldn’t stand it anymore and eventually quit.”

“Look me up when you are in San Diego and we’ll play some golf.”

“You can find me at the Lowe’s if you find out I can play ball.”

Joan and I carried our plates full of oysters, roast beef, and salad with Bloody Mary’s in hand when I noticed another baseball player,Chuck Pinney, seated at a nearby table, “Hey Chuck, remember me?”

“Yeah Dan, how could I forget. I just told someone Roger Staubach beat me out of an outfield position on the baseball team that wasn’t too bad. How’re you doing?”

“I’m feeling very fine right now. This is my wife, Joan.”

“Glad to meet you Joan, I knew Dan on the baseball team.”

“Well, we’re going to sit over there with some of my 20th company classmates. Good to see you again.”As we made it to a table with Charles and Elisabeth Heath, I had to laugh about Chuck’s remark, he had such a “gung-ho” attitude that made him a natural for the Marine Corps.

(Naval Academy Cheerleaders held up high Singing and Yelling Cheers)

Halfway into our meal the Naval Academy Cheerleaders arrived to energize the alumni with a strong dose of Navy spirit in preparation for the Delaware game an hour from starting. Shapely and attractive female midshipmen, or should it be midshipwomen, performed admirably making me glad they had advanced into areas only men previously filled. Their hard sensual bodies made me wonder how smooth the transition first occurred.

(Lon Cooke Shouting a word of Encouragement Looking for Seats before Game)

Since that time, unfortunately, a number of Naval Academy Midshipmen, like Air Force Academy, and West Point Cadets, had sexually abused some women. That criminal behavior ended in severe discipline and expulsion from the Academies for some and at least one criminal prosecution. Regardless of that dark side of the relationship, these cheerleaders seemed a welcome addition to the fighting spirit of the Naval Academy Football Team. They performed a pre-game series of acrobatic maneuvers and rousing cheers and songs. When they concluded we gave them a standing ovation.

(Naval Academy Choir Warming up before Football Game)

Harmonic voices drifted through the stadium from it’s loudspeaker system magnifying the men’s choir singing“The Star Spangled Banner” a cappella. Since I belonged to two choirs and loved singing, I quickly moved to a location close enough to see the singers. The Naval Academy Choir, stood behind their director, warming up for the game, and began by singing Navy Blue and Gold. Their rendition sung with feeling in four-part harmony sent chills down my spine. They measured up to my highest expectations as I moved even closer with Joan.

(Navy Mascot Billy The Goat with Handlers before Game)

The sound of drums in cadence with the Naval Academy Marching Band signaled the Brigade had entered the stadium. The crowd had nearly filled the stadium, so Andy, Barbara, Joan and I made our way to the end zone with the alumni. By the time we found our seats through the crowd, the Brigade had filled half of the football field. We watched the precision of the midshipmen making their column right maneuver to the end of the next available portion of the football field.

(Brigade Beginning a Column Left Maneuver before Game)

Each company filed in one by one until all twenty-four filled the field. On command, they shouted in unison a cheer to beat their opponent for today’s game, the Delaware University Blue Hens. That name should not fool anyone into thinking Navy faced a weak team. First in the Atlantic-10 Conference, they had won six of their seven games and led East Coast colleges sending many graduates to the National Football League.

(Brigade Facing Choir and Home Crowd before Game)

After shouting a cheer for Navy, the Brigade on the next command made a classy about-face in unison. They acknowledged the Delaware supporters with a cheer for the Blue Hens followed by tipping their white dress caps toward the opposing fans. Joan mentioned she had never seen such an act of good sportsmanship at any football games she attended in Chicago or at the University of Florida. After the game went back and forth with neither team dominating the score, half time intervened.

By the time the players returned to the field a group of huge Delaware fans some said were their freshman team because of their size, lined up behind the alumni section. They loudly screamed for their team during the most of the third quarter. Some of them made snide and obscene remarks to the alumni fans that offended a few who had more than enough alcohol to challenge them verbally from their seats. Many of us yelled back remarks to their solid line of brutes abusing us with obnoxious taunts to everyone in the Navy end zone section.

Fortunately, Navy got a few breaks, made some good runs and passes to win the game 34-20 overwhelming the Blue Hens and silencing the despicable hoodlums standing behind us. The Brigade with the Naval Academy Choir and Band played and sang with Navy fans standing, a traditional song the midshipmen sing at the end of every football game:

(Naval Academy Choir Singing the National Anthem Facing Brigade)

NAVY BLUE AND GOLD

Now, colleges from sea to sea

May sing of colors true.

But who has better right than we

To hoist a symbol hue?

For sailors brave in battle fair

Since fighting days of old

Have proved a sailor's right to wear

The Navy Blue and Gold.

GO NAVY – BEAT ARMY!

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You Got Lucky When You Met Joan

(Click on pictures to zoom) It was an amazing romantic encounter so very intense The moment I saw her eyes I began to lose my sense She walked up the stairs to meet me for a blind date When I look back I believe this was meant to be by fate The stars, planets and energy fields were aligned just right When both of us were brought within each other’s sight This beautiful and graceful modern dancer by chance to meet From a friend named Hal who gave me an invitation so sweet I said no at first thinking it a waste of time looking forlorn As I was going to the bay area for law school tomorrow morn This was going to be my last night at Cal State Long Beach A lively wonderful woman was surely way out of reach Having had blind dates from many a considerate friend Who would apologize later when it was another dead end But now was a different time and much to my surprise When those divine mysterious forces were summoned to arise And carefully place this lovely creative vivacious beauty Before an awaiting Annapolis grad who always did his duty For eight and a half years until he resigned his commission But on this fateful day had an unforgettably joyful collision Dark shimmering hair, sense of humor, very intelligent too Adventurous, a love of reading and children, a heart so true She made me feel important liked my photographs and slides Our chance meeting established she had the best life provides Lucky for me she had just finished a summer session of dance Tomorrow I‘d be in San Francisco it would be my last chance To learn enough about her to see if this could possibly be A kind and loving person who would share her life with me Our conversation seemed so natural as she set me at ease I was magically confident and somehow knew how to please Not the usual awkward athlete when time was so fleeting Everything went so smoothly from the very first greeting She was only twenty one and came from Oak Park Illinois I also from that state at Morgan Park a nine pound baby boy Eight years older but our birthdays were only a day apart The relationship continued building momentum from the start We both loved music, the outdoors, and having lots of fun And each of us left cold Chicago for the California sun She had an exceptionally warm smile that grabbed me right away When I hugged and kissed her that very special fateful day   Could our angels have been planning this encounter all along? When I think about our meeting it makes my heart sing a song “You got lucky” Dan when you met your lovely Joan She came into your life when you were all alone Then I asked her to come with me to see the Golden Gate And decide to live with me in Berkeley before it was too late She looked at me and smiled in response to this impulsive plan And I could hear my heart skip a beat as she said, “Yes, Dan” So off to the Frisco Bay we sped in my white corvette Stingray I will always be grateful for that wonderfully beautiful day And now that I am seventy two and she is sixty-four We are parents of three amazing children and what’s more We have three grandchildren and another on the way And are thankful for the blessings of each and every day We still love each other no matter what the day brings When I remember my meeting her that day my soul sings (Click to read: it will zoom)

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Best Blind Date with Joan

     Best Blind Date with Joan(click to zoom image) Always on a quest for the woman of my dreams, I went exploring the CSLB campus and noticed a women’s dance class met in the gymnasium’s dance rooms. Dancers from many states and countries took advantage of modern dance instructors available during the summer dance program. To be close to the dancers I took my camera case with all my lenses pretending to make a photo-journal report. At the Gym where they assembled before classes, I spoke to many attractive dancers fascinated by their hard but limber bodies, amazing energy, and joyful personalities. These colorful nymphs in pink, purple, green, turquoise, or blue leotards gracefully glided over shiny wooden floors in unison to lively music. Far too many looked interesting, athletic, disciplined, and creative. I had found nirvana. How could I connect with any of these lovely women? What could I say to meet them? Timid and shy, I just watched in awe. On my last day in Long Beach, a friend from the cafeteria named Hal said, “I want you to meet an attractive girl here this summer.” “I have always regretted blind dates. I’m leaving for Law School tomorrow.” “But Dan, she’s a dancer,” Hal said undeterred. Pausing to let his words register, “That’s different. I’m in!”I said with gusto. “We can do a double date with her friend Courtney this evening around six.” He gave me the address of a dancer named Joan. Hal was waiting in the second story apartment she rented. Footsteps warned she was ascending the stairs. Vivacious Joan Fowles from Oak Park entered and immediately I knew this encounter was going to be interesting. She had dark shimmering hair, a smile that showed an inner glow, a face and a body to die for. “Let’s go to my apartment,” I said and took her to my Corvette, put down the top, and sped off with my dancer! Hal and Courtney followed. We walked to the beach, took off our shoes, ran to the water laughing, and put our feet in the shallow surf. The sun was an orange glow that glistened on the rolling waves working their way to the shore near our feet. I mentioned my many photographs of sunsets in my travels to the Far East. “I loved  Florida's sunsets."  Joan said. “When did you live in Florida?”I asked. “My last three years at the University of Florida.” “I grew up in Miami and spent a year at Sanford, Florida that had awesome sunsets. Why did you come here?” “My dance instructor said Cal State Long Beach had a great dance program.” The sun had set and a wind started to blow from the west so I turned her towards me and said, “I have nature slides along with sunsets from the far east and at sea. Would you like to see them?” “Yes. Let’s go.” We ran to my apartment where I set up the slide projector and showed my best slides of sunsets, surf, mountains, volcanoes, and nature from the Philippines, Taipei, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam and Japan. We sipped Cabernet Sauvignon and listened to Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart on my stereo and professional tape recorder. I set up my chair behind Joan while slides advanced every five seconds. Near the end I started to massage her shoulders. Her body language and smile spoke she liked my move. Afterwards we danced to rock music and Hal and Courtney left. We continued dancing. I had to know more about her and said, “When is your birthday?” “January 19.” “Mine is January 18!” I blurted out astounded and fastened on her eyes that expressed surprise, “Where were you born?” “Oak Park, Illinois.” “What a coincidence! I was born in Morgan Park--a few miles away.” I approached her. We hugged and kissed. When we touched I felt a fire growing inside—electricity that tingled long afterwards. Was this the woman I had been searching for all my life? As I gazed into her hazel eyes I felt she was. I have heard there are no coincidences—intense encounters were meant to occur. My heart recognized a chance at love when Joan and I interacted. There was no past or future; just the present. We were attracted by powerful forces working their magic. I paused thinking I don’t want to leave Long Beach. How can I prolong this date? On an impulse words flowed, “How would you like to see the Golden Gate Bridge?” She looked at me with that bright smile, “I’d love to.” I was riding a wave of excitement. She was the only woman with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life. I thought my search for happiness might have finally ended. I had tapped into some reservoir deep within me that awakened me to the possibilities of our future. We spent that night getting to know each other,  sharing some of our experiences, and dreams. After some dancing, I kissed her and held her tightly. We melted entwined in our fairy tale romance until daybreak. The next day after we retrieved her things and packed my Corvette for Frisco. On the way I photographed some mysterious mounds, mellow rolling hills with oak trees rustling, cattle roaming, red hawks gliding, seals sunbathing near flocks of birds, waves swirling, and ocean splashing foam off rocks on the coast.         We finally arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge. The grace and form of the vermilion behemoth struck us both as reaching a fantastic goal with a unique color. I took a photo of Joan at the off-ramp. We embraced and after a deep breath, “I’m so glad you came with me,” I sighed.      (click to Zoom)

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A Yosemite Hike

After the first UFW labor convention was held in Fresno from September 21-23, 1973, Joan and I decided to visit Yosemite for a natural uplift. We rented a tent in Curry Village at the floor of Yosemite Valley not far from swift flowing, Yosemite River. My body and mind felt so relaxed in this pristine environment, I laid back and allowed the sun to warm me and the wind to blow in my face. Attracted by the magnetic force of nature’s beauty everywhere, we walked out through the waving meadows, towering pines, and resting deer to steepled rock formations and fallen red woods. We were mesmerized by the reflections of nature in the Yosemite River! Most of the water flowing in Yosemite comes from snowmelt in the high country, so runoff decreases during the dry summer. Peak runoff typically occurs in May or June, with some waterfalls often only a trickle or completely dry by August. Other waterfalls, including Vernal, Nevada, and Bridalveil run all year; however, their flow can be very low by late summer. Near Yosemite Lodge, I watched the smoothed rocks glistening through the surface of the river from eons of time, billions of molecules of water striking surfaces, ever shaping the meandering river so that it appears different each visit.                                                             Our trek took us to a bridge and the ever-energetic Vernal Falls tumbling from a precipice a few miles away yet in walking distance up a steep pathway of seemingly carved rock. As we ascended the pathway known as the Mist Trail, we traveled under overhangs and around huge granite formations balancing carefully close to the mountain’s edge. Our eyes drifted to the chasm below ever spiraling down to a pool of greenish blue clear water. There the sparkling waterfall dropped its winding column of water twisting in the wind over a four hundred foot fall, then shattered the silence with its skittering splashing sounds. Nature had created a rainbow that quivered with the falling water separating into one, two, or three waterfalls in a constantly changing pattern.        Slowly as we trudged carefully on an incline flexing our hamstrings and calf muscles with a full stretch each lunge, we eventually reached an escarpment where we rested. I looked down above the wavy stream of descending translucent chilled liquid from the melting snowpack above. As we looked upstream, we observed a natural channel through which the blue green fluid passed over a bronze smooth volcanic surface. There it had cut patterns over the many years of erosive activity as if nature had taken a knife to sculpt it for the pleasure of those who admire it. We had reached a hard fought location where the view of Vernal Falls appeared completely different from the vantage point of the pedestrian bridge. Most travelers only saw it from that quick stop and did not tackle the steep and challenging rugged trail we enjoyed.    In another half mile we reached the vista all Yosemite visitors covet, which one can see even from Yosemite’s Valley at the right perspective. We had an unobstructed view of Half Dome and a 360-degree panoramic spectacle of the surrounding peaks, crags, mountains, and huge granite boulders of every size and dimension under white puffy clouds dotted with patches of blue sky.   Red Tailed Hawks, Falcons, Buzzards flew in circles riding thermals and gliding great distances when they rhythmically moved their outstretched wings. We saw Steller’s jay, American Robin, Acorn Woodpecker, Ravens, and Mountain Chickadees in the pine forests and near rivers and streams American Dipper Dart, White and Gray Herons, and a curious squirrel.    Yosemite Valley’s astounding and marvelous rock formations soaked our spirit. Hungry for sights foreign to the flat San Joaquin Valley, magnificent splendor contrasted with our Bakersfield shanty. We gradually worked our way down a mule path, which dropped rapidly. Soon the trail’s angle encouraged us to trot, then lope like deer. We tried to find a cadence and rhythm to ease our way down. Ever nearer the edge, we followed the trail until we reached the Valley floor. We returned to our tents in tranquility to dream of the astounding images we had seen. At sunrise, we left this wonderland on the curving road back to work, industry, and commitment. We felt refreshed from our energetic experiencing of nature’s most wonderful gifts that feed the soul, always available to the observant when needing refreshment.

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Merchant Marine

Dad commanded the Military Sea Transportation Service in the Navy from 1959 to 1962 and secured a fascinating summer job for me as a waiter on a Merchant Marine ship. My three cruises took me to ports in the Mediterranean Sea and Bremerhaven, Germany. During the summer of 1959, after obtaining a passport and passing a physical exam, I carried my suitcase, a bundle of favorite records, and my record player to the USNS General Maurice Rose (T- AP-126) docked at Brooklyn, N.Y. The personnel carrier was similar to the General Randall I had taken to Japan.

I trudged up the gangplank and reported as a crew member who earned $400 per month with free room and board. A Filipino steward took me to my room on the bottom deck where I bunked with three other “messmen,” who served meals to the large crew and cleaned officers’ rooms. Surrounded by a diverse mix of African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and Caucasian crew-members, I stepped into an entirely different world that made me hope it would broaden my perspective and help me mature.

Before we left for Spain, Coney Island’s great amusement park attracted my interest. Zooming around on the roller coaster, spinning on the tilt-a-whirl, shooting at targets, and ringing the bell with the sledgehammer, satisfied that youthful urge. The ocean breeze atop the Ferris wheel provided a relief on a scorching ninety-five degree day and my first spectacular view of the “Big Apple.”

                                   

While walking near the New York theater scene, Sidney Poitier appeared on a downtown street early that evening. Blackboard Jungle, Edge of the City, and The Defiant Ones brought race relations to a focus for me. He stopped, strolled into the Ethel Barrymore Theater, and played a leading role with Ruby Dee in A Raisin in the Sun, I absorbed from front row.

           (Click on images to expand)                            

Poitier played the son of a family that received enough money from an insurance policy after their father’s death to purchase a house in an all white neighborhood in Chicago. As a chauffeur, he soon trusted a hustler with the money his mother gave him to start a new life. When cheated out of her savings, he was tempted to sell his parents’ new home to a group of white racists, but detected the racist motivation, declined to succumb to coercion, and united the family as the leader his mother wanted him to be.

                      

Poitier’s charisma penetrated my consciousness and made me realize how little experience I had with Blacks in my sheltered existence. Spending three hours with a Black family trying to solve their problem and hearing their dialogue express how they felt to be treated like second class citizens, made me better understand their plight. It also reminded me of the civil rights lecture I heard a year earlier on a train. These influences had begun to grow deep inside me and would blossom later.

The Navy used the General Rose to transport government employees, ambassadors, diplomats, military personnel and their families to overseas destinations. The Rose carried a complement of fifteen Merchant Marine officers and a crew of two hundred men to service the ship with its three hundred passengers. Many college-aged students embarked for the Mediterranean to visit their parents who resided in Europe. The only naval officer in charge warned the crew, “Do not socialize with civilians, or I will cancel your liberty.”

Unintimidated, on the first cruise I made a number of friends by surreptitiously joining them in civilian clothes where mixers were held for the students. When the officer caught me, the red-face shouted, “Get below with your kind. Never come topside again.” I had to avoid “hawk eyes,” but found it amusing he associated me with the crew he disrespected when my Dad was his superior officer. Beyond serving meals to the crew, my duties included cleaning Merchant Marine Officers’ rooms, changing sheets, swabbing, and waxing floors that required me to ascend to the upper deck where their large staterooms were. Not as disciplined as I imagined, many left a mess that required hours to clean.

                        

I had three roommates. Jake was a street-wise, muscular Black and a natural leader in his forties who organized a black market cigarette operation. A smaller Mexican named Ramon, who loved Fundador cognac and bar hopping, bunked next to me. The oldest, he was quiet and muscular, but his belly stuck out like a watermelon. Chris, a lanky white scullery dishwasher from Minnesota, was about thirty, and had a scraggly beard. He was always with Sonny, who weighed more than three hundred pounds, had a dark beard with a goatee, was blind in one large ominous eye, and resembled a pirate with a Bronx accent.

After the ship departed, I met Frenchie, a crew-member and former bodyguard who lifted weights in an open area in a hallway on the bottom deck. He invited me to work out daily when I told him I wanted to get in shape for football at Duke. He outweighed me by forty pounds, but was four inches shorter. A disciplined athlete with a bull-neck and huge muscles that rippled over his body, his square head, reddish blond crew cut, sparkling blue eyes, and common sense, made him unique and interesting.

“You should lift your own weight soon if you work with me daily,” he said and started me pressing one hundred pounds. Eventually, I worked up to two hundred and twenty pounds by the end of the summer, added twenty-five pounds of muscle to my frame, and changed my body from slender to muscular.

Ben, a smooth-talking Black in his mid-forties, was the chief steward in the galley where messmen served the crew meals. Everyone respected him because of his leadership, superior intelligence, and position. Sporting a well-groomed goatee, he bore a striking resemblance to Jeff Chandler, a famous white movie actor.

The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, enlightened me how most white people, who had little contact with Blacks, failed to realize the differences in their facial features. When I took the time to observe them in conversation,  they had every variation of nose, eyebrow, ear, chin, mouth, teeth, or any other feature white people had—a lesson I had learned regarding the Japanese when I lived in their country.

Panama at sixty had a full, but sparse, beard flecked with white, blood-shot eyes, and mumbled constantly. A slender Black from Panama, he spoke Spanish, broken English, and was mysterious. He never performed his duty of cleaning out the large commercial urn that served a hundred men that made the coffee almost unpalatable.

“The coffee tastes so much better when the urn is cleaned. Are you going to clean it?”I said, hoping to have him do a task I would have to perform if he refused.

“Don’t mess with me, white boy,” shot from his lips as red-veined eyes glared.

Taking that as a threat and feeling the need to assert myself, I said, “Panama, you don’t scare me. Just do your job.”

He crept close to me and through heavy alcoholic and tobacco breath sprayed vitriol while jockeying his head left and right with each word: “Boy, I goin’ cut yo throat wid my knife while yo sleepin’ God Dammit! Leave me lone. I kill yo ass.”

Retreating from the verbal assault, my mind wondered, “What made him respond with a death threat?”

Ben warned, “Be very careful with everything you say to Panama. Never, ever, criticize him. He’s crazy in the head, man. Don’t you know that?”

“Do you think Panama would actually cut my throat?”

Ben rolled his eyes, “Man, Panama is very dangerous. Leave him alone.”

Days after we left for the Mediterranean Sea, I heard some yelling at night outside my room and opened the door along with Jake. A small, skinny black crew-member in white tee shirt and khaki slacks held a knife in his hand and stood over a bulky white German crew-member who worked in the engine room. Blood from the German’s neck gushed. In seconds, security guards and medical staff surrounded us, carried the victim away on a gurney, and escorted the black crew-member out. I never again saw the German, nor the black man who stabbed him. That violent action demonstrated as nothing else could, that I must not offend any crew-members. Who knows which one might be angry, hostile, or hold a grudge? Ben’s warning about Panama raced through my mind, as did an image of Panama resting a knife on my throat while I slept.

             

The Rose docked at Rota, Spain after eight days. It had taken me a while to acquire “sea legs” after the rocking and rolling of the ship but was relieved to have the motion of the ship cease. When I went ashore I experienced an odd feeling—the land continued to move as if the ocean were under it for a few hours.

Cadiz, only a few miles away from Rota, was inviting with its brilliant white homes dotting the countryside and green hills leading to the blue silk Atlantic Ocean. I walked the streets of Rota noting they spoke Castilian Spanish lisping their S’s and C’s followed by a vowel. When Spaniards understood me, it made the adventure of interacting with them enjoyable. Invariably, the citizens of any country we visited in Europe appreciated conversing with an American teenager in their native tongue. My Spanish improved dramatically. The locals spoke rapidly making it hard to understand them at first. Slowly,  Spanish vocabulary and grammar came back to me, my mind deciphered the unfamiliar sounds, and communications improved. If I had more time  in Spain I could become acclimated to their culture.

Barcelona was our next port that offered a breathtaking view as we sailed in. There were foreign ships, a huge castle on a hill, and promenades throughout the city with quaint streets, shops, and walk-up bars. A group of college students joined me for a hike to an impressive castle whose winding stone walkway beckoned us. We toured inside and decided to go back to the city by taxi and order dinner.

 (Click on image to expand)

Bartenders welcomed the tourists to sample specialties. Champagne, fresh seafood, ceviche, and escargot were plentiful, delicious, and inexpensive.

The messmen dressed in fancy civilian outfits meandered through the city to dance-bars like the Kit Kat Club, a chain of clubs prominent in most of the large ports where prostitutes were available, but dangerous. Fortunately the ship had warned us about VD. I drank local beer, wandered to clubs, bars, and promenades sightseeing, while hookers wearing heavy make-up hustled shipmates. They were interested in how much money they could make quickly before returning for the next trick. Ignoring the warning many shipmates spent a week taking pills to cure their symptoms later.

Bored by the scene, I tried out my Spanish on a vivacious red-haired female bartender named Rose who spoke English, appeared intelligent, gave useful advice about where to go while in Barcelona, and mixed a mean margarita. At twenty-five, she was a person I wanted to learn more about, but the bar noise made conversation difficult. My Spanish experience in Cadiz helped me gain her confidence and friendship while she entertained the customers with jokes. “One of the best Spanish customs in Barcelona is Las Ramblas--a late evening walk about eleven PM for an hour or more,” she said and added smiling, “You need to get away from the bar scene to appreciate my country.”

“Will you show me Las Ramblas this evening after you finish?”

“Come by when I quit at midnight and I’ll gladly take you there.”

Many men in Barcelona wore berets, as did a few of the messmen while ashore including Frenchie. When I put one on it changed my appearance from a college boy to a more sophisticated person.

                  

At closing time Rose showed me Barcelona nightlife. We walked the tree-lined Las Ramblas past the Catedral de Barcelona. Kiosks were everywhere and vendors sold souvenirs and flowers. Street performers, cafes, and restaurants sparkled with the friendly crowd strolling by.

At the Royal Square she took me to a pub that played popular American music with a dance floor. We drank sangria, danced to “Kansas City,” “Donna,” “There Goes my Baby,” “So Fine,” and “Dream Lover.” On our way back to our table, I pulled her close, kissed her neck, and squeezed my inflamed body against her. She kissed me back and bit my lip, then playfully took my hand and scampered away with me laughing all the way into the street. A fire ignited inside when she invited me to her modern apartment.  We slow-danced to soft music. A moth to her flame, I fell into a burning passion. She bit me again and giggled through her voluptuous lips and smile. We were so attracted—off went her red skirt, orange blouse, my slacks, and sport shirt. In an intoxicating blaze her soft breasts and limber legs aroused all the passion of our entwined bodies like a volcano about to erupt, “Eres bonita...Te quiero...Cómo fantástico eres...Estás espectacular...”

A taxi took Frenchie and me to a beach resort not far from the city with some college friends from the Rose past the bustle of foreigners and travelers in bars where we nestled on the beach. A cool swim in the Mediterranean energized us for a nearby beach bar and ceviche marinated in lime with onions and chilled champagne.

                         

At Livorno, Italy, a taxi drove me to the leaning Tower of Pisa. As I walked beyond each turn, gradually ascending the Tower, an increasingly spectacular view of the city with Mt. Vesuvius in the background spread before me. From there we visited Naples, Pompeii, Tripoli, Athens, Istanbul, and Izmir before returning to the United States. These ancient cities awed me for the thousands of years of civilization that had transpired and the different history each left their descendants. Walking the same roads, observing the artifacts, and touching the statues sent chills down my spine and inspired me to dive into the study of history my first opportunity at Duke.

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When we returned to Brooklyn, a train brought me to the Bronx and Yankee Stadium for a baseball game. With monuments to Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Miller Huggins in front of the centerfield flag pole, the fans were raucous, ferociously partisan, and demanding. The Yanks won a double header against the Red Sox and Whitey Ford won the first game. Mickey Mantle, Enos Slaughter, and Elson Howard homered and reliever Ryne Duren saved both games striking out most of the Bosox.

We departed for Bremerhaven, Germany and reached the port after eight days. I visited parks and gardens, drank at beer halls, and wandered cobblestone streets. Their open air Maritime Museum contained a large collection of German ships and the “U-BootWILHELM BAUER. I purchased a Black Forest cuckoo clock with hand carved figurines for my mother. The variety of clocks at the store had a collection of carved people and animals appear in a clock window or door at the beginning of an hour. Their melodies  filled the room astounding me as did their size and quality.

                                 

The exposure to people from different backgrounds with whom I lived and worked, visiting foreign ports, learning about exotic cultures, and having some success communicating in Spanish with local people and Rose, expanded my awareness of the world. As did developing my body with Frenchie, reading a stack of novels, and making friends with the diverse crew. I had gained confidence and felt excitement from sharing my adventure with others, especially my family. Arriving with beret, suitcase, and a newly developed husky frame, my appearance suggested my personality had undergone a complete transformation, but at nineteen, I had just begun to heighten my consciousness.

Wanting to share my experiences from this summer with Mom, Ruthie, and Grampa, I returned to Fernandina Beach, Florida. When I arrived, Mom informed me Grampa had fallen very ill during the summer and died from cancer. His death made me deeply sorry for his pain and suffering.  I felt a great loss not having my brilliant grandfather at home to play cards, discuss sports, and make us laugh at dinner. Ruthie hid her grief by playing her Hammond organ. Mom loved the cuckoo clock. Every hour a red and yellow wooden bird emerged from a door and chirped a cheery “cuckoo,” bringing needed laughter.

Mom wished she could have pursued college when younger but she sacrificed that to raise her children until Dad returned from war. His winning custody when I was five added to the burden she carried from her breakdown, shock treatments, and abuse. She and Ruthie worshiped at the Episcopal Church, watched sunrise every morning as it rose above the sand dunes and glistened its hues upon the incoming waves, seagulls, and Brown Pelicans gliding on wind currents. The Grey Porpoises rose and dropped in perpetual rhythm with the sloshing of the sea on the shore providing nature’s relief from the world’s conflicts on the most caring observers in my world.

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