Our emancipation was the greatest gift completing high school could have bestowed on us that effervescent June afternoon. Years of State mandated education had come to an end; we were about to slip the restrictive shackles of parental guidance, leave behind the cumbersome rules of home, the fetters of citified adolescence and head into a summer of shameless bliss.
Chapter II Where in the World is Pago Pago?
Upon alighting from the aircraft, we noted there were no buildings around the new airport. No hangers, not even a control tower. We did see a wind sock waving lazily on one side of the airfield. “Odd,” we thought. That was our first clue of just how primitive this island nation was in the 1960's. Soon the baggage was unloaded from the belly of the aircraft and was lined up on the edge of the runway; the surfboards alongside. Once everything was cleared from the aircraft, the pilot raised the rear loading ramp, throttled up the engines and taxied down the runway for takeoff. The returning flight was soon airborne leaving everyone behind on the ground in the very peaceful, quiet and deserted airport. And at 2 P.M., it was blazing hot under the unrelenting rays of the Samoan sun.
Chapter III Enter the Isabel Rose
In the far away recesses of the South Pacific, there are places where no law exists, where there are no time-outs and no penalties are awarded for bad behavior. There, those with a proclivity towards aberrant behavior: the dysfunctional, the disturbed, the psychosocial, the homosexual and the just plain delusional can be found roaming unrestrained, unobserved,and unknown.
Chapter IV Viti Levu, Sounds like a Disease to me
Bright, blue-sky days spent in blissful surfing, evenings reading sea stories by the dim light of a bare bulb and an occasional visit to the Islander. Simply gazing at the hillsides, smelling the fragrantly scented air wafting from the blooms of gardenias, frangipani and roses, watching the white billowing clouds scurrying silently overhead consumed our days.
Life in paradise was certainly different from the life Charles and I had lived during our first seventeen years. The tall buildings of metropolis were gone, the sinuous concrete ribbons of freeways had not yet arrived and the cacophony of sounds produced by the bustle of civilization were not found in proximity to this utopian isle.
Chapter V A Black-Tip Came to Dinner
The card told the story of his near brush with death. In his youth, the islander had been swimming in the ocean, near his village on the far side of the island, when he appeared to be prey for a vicious, twelve foot, black tipped, reef shark. It attacked, tearing both his arms off. The horrified adolescent’s screams brought help from his fellow villagers; they ran off the hungry shark that left the bleeding, armless, young man near death. Rushed to the primitive island hospital, the shark man’s life was saved, but with his arms gone he was left helpless to fend for himself. None of the crew had the stomach to turn away someone in his condition. It was a tragedy, the likes of which none of us had ever had to deal with; it touched our hearts to think how difficult this man’s mangled life had become, through no fault of his own.
Chapter VI And Along Came Paisano?
We stargazed into the celestial cathedral of heavenly bodies suspended in the inexorable darkness overhead; all highlighted by the stars of the magnificent Southern Cross. We gazed in awe at the constellations: Corvus, Virgo and the Crab Nebula. It was breathtakingly spectacular, more stars were visible than in any sky we had ever seen. It was difficult to lie there, on that sandy beach and not be in complete wonderment of the planet we inhabited; its vastness, its complexity and its motherly attitude towards the children that play upon its surface.
Chapter VII A View Down Under
Wooden boats are a distinct species. In the view of Jonathan Wilson: “There is an irresistible aura about boats and yachts build of wood, an aura brimming over with the richness of creation. It flows from the strength and grace of trees themselves, through the hands of craftsmen who fashion them into proud new forms. It is the presence not only of substance, but of soul, created in a collaboration between the earth, the sea, and the artisans who fit the wood with skill and care so that it will look lovely and last long.” We were beginning to appreciate that as long as we traveled on this beautiful boat cruising the world’s seven seas, we would be engaged with the never ending upkeep of a wooden sailboat. There were never any complaints.
Chapter VIII Exploring the Great Barrier Reef
Heading north from Bribie, Paisano rounded Fraser Island. We were searching for the navigational leads that marked the entrance to the passage through the Sandy Straits. Leads, like lighthouses, mark the end of a journey or the safety of a landfall; they mark the danger of a hidden reef or an outcropping of rocks. The sun was setting, making picking out landmarks significantly more difficult; it’s rays reflected off the surface of the glassy sea making our entire view one of a brilliant red-yellow-orange canvas. We searched the western horizon for the markers until noticing waves were beginning to break around the boat. Realizing we were getting into shallow water, and thinking that we had missed the entrance to the deep water channel that led into Hervey Bay, John decided to come about, retracing the last fifteen minutes of travel.
Chapter IX In Search of the Elusive Papuan Butterfly
As our questions dug deeper into John’s store of knowledge, we began to view our arrival with a great deal of excitement and some trepidation. In mid-sixties Papua, the eastern half of the island nation of New Guinea was still very primitive. We had heard whisperings that cannibals still existed in the outback, feasting on long pig. There were tribes, bush people they were called, that had never seen white men and little was known about the Sepic River area, an unmapped region of inland Papua. Wondering if any bush people lived on the coast or if we would even run into any local tribes; we hoped that we would meet with some unusual people with bizarre and alien customs. We had great expectations; we were not to be disappointed.
Chapter X Head West Young Men
We had reentered paradise. New Guinea, with it’s multiple circles of hell, was becoming a distant memory. On shore we met the colonizing Aussie’s who, apparently all drinking from the same cup of boredom, spent most of their off-work hours drinking, playing snooker while drinking and having drank sufficiently, bonking each others’ wives. The community of eighty inhabitants made for an interesting behavior study of what human beings will do when constrained on a small island, in the middle of nowhere, with not much to do.
Chapter XI Legend Has It That Sighting an Albatross Is Good Luck
Paisano left Christmas Island before the aberrant social behavior that had infected its inhabitants metastasized to the crew. Sailing to the south of Indonesia, we left a wide girth between the ketch and the infamous Malacca Strait. The Strait is a narrow, perhaps twenty miles wide, waterway that separates the island countries of Malaysia and Indonesia. Having attained infamy throughout history for its roving and sometimes pernicious pirates, the Strait is a place smart yachtsman avoid.
Chapter XII How Do You Like Your Curry?
Mark asked us what we liked and then ordered our food. Taking delight in the fact that he could speak the local dialect and we could not understand a word of what was being discussed; Mark decided to have some fun with the two of us. We heard the waiters stifling laughs as they put heads together deciding what to serve. Understanding that something was up, we shared a knowing look and wondered what Mark had in store for his English speaking guests. When Mark ordered the meals, he apparently ordered our portions with an extra splash of curry; the curry made our eyes water like we were at a funeral. As tears cascaded down our cheeks, everyone roared with laughter. Even though we imbibed copious amounts of water it did nothing to quench the burning sensation that currently resided in our throats. “Ahhhh,” we mumbled, “How do you control this internal fire?” I felt that my body was about to burst into flame. The waiters bent over roaring with laughter.
Chapter XIII Paradise Becomes Psychedelic
Bored with the lack of visual stimuli outside, I wandered back inside the house. Allowing my gaze to slowly revolve around the room, I noticed a wooden credenza perched against a side wall. I walked over and picked up a book resting on the tabletop. It was titled The Family of Man and consisted solely of photographs of people’s faces; there was no text, no descriptions. The people were from all over the earth, different nationalities, different races, yet each was beautiful in his or her own way. I was struck mainly by their eyes, and the depth in their expressions. Deep, endless pools finding their bottom in the root of their souls. I wasn’t sure if it was that book or the mescaline or both that impressed me so very much that night.
Chapter XIV They Did Write The Kama Sutra
With discussion continuing on into the night, another round of drinks was ordered. A elderly waiter appeared with the drinks and placed them on the table in front of us. He turned and looked at me; I looked up into the waiters face, being shocked by the man's serene appearance. I had never seen a face with more character in it. He was an older gent, perhaps sixty years old, bald on top with a fringe of white hair; his skin well tanned from the tropical sun. His face was deeply creased by the harshness of the weather and the decades of his life. To me, it was as though I was staring into the face of God. I was incredibly moved by the countenance that rested gently on the surface of the waiter’s face. It demonstrated to me that a person’s character may perhaps come from the construct of their entire life, and that the type of employment undertaken during a lifetime, while an ingredient of that construct, was on its own, unimportant. Having done his duty, the waiter walked off, thanking his guests for a generous tip.
Chapter XV Head East Young Man?
My first stop was the Chinese YMCA; residents there looked at me like I was an alien from another planet. They questioned, “What was an American doing at the Chinese Y?” It never occurred to me that there might be a Y for Europeans; after all, this is Asia. Two Y‘s would be redundant, wouldn‘t they?
Chapter XVI Headin’ Home
The Indian Trader departed Singapore as I raised a digital salute to the authoritarian government of the island. I stood outside the pilot house watching as the city slowly faded awaybehind me. Due to the rigidity of their rules and their lack of sensitivity, I had attained a profound displeasure for the small nation during my short stay on their island. Truthfully, I could not fathom the inhospitable means with which they treat youthful travelers. My vitriol was barely contained when I thought about my recent confinement in their most unpleasant accommodations.
Chapter XVII You Needn’t Worry Unless the Bucket Goes Over!
The navigator speculated that the misery of our current situation may have been exacerbated by the powerful flow of the Gulf Stream, which drives north offshore of the east coast of the states and then makes a sharp right turn into the north Atlantic. When the warm waters from the southern gulf collide with the cool air of the northern latitudes, all hell can, and was, breaking loose.
Chapter XVIII America The Beautiful
In my limited number of years, my parents had taught me to be honest, help others and never pick on anyone smaller than myself. I had become a strong, healthy young man and believed that the good deeds I had done had catapulted me on his unparalleled voyage of adventure and discovery. Then suddenly all hell broke loose and an innocent, decent, caring young man in the spring of his life, was killed through no fault of his own. Hastily, I was bombarded with existentialist questions that failed to provide acceptable answers to my inquiring mind. Like many my age, I drank from the goblet of ignorance while fiercely seeking clues to why, where, and who?
Paisano Publishing-printed in the USA. From Boys 2 Men sells for $16.99