Archive for October, 2015

October 2, 2015

Post 77 — Liner Notes

Matson-Monterey-LOGOBoat Day was happening in full force as Chrissie and Liz made their way through the crowded marketplace. Tourists haggled with Samoans over the price of mats and carved wooden outrigger canoes, each feeling sure that they gotten the best of the other person. It was an age-old dance that happened every time a cruise ship docked and everyone enjoyed it. The real winners were the palagis who lived on the island, who would swoop in after the boat had left and buy all the carved kava cups they had been coveting at rock-bottom prices because they knew the Samoans wouldn’t want to cart the stuff back to the village.

A large British woman walked away from the market back toward the dock, fanning herself with an intricately woven fan embellished with bright feathers that she had just purchased. “Look, Bertie,” she exclaimed to her sweating, red-faced husband. “They must have exotic birds on this island. How colorful!” If Bertie realized that the wispy parrot-like decorations were actually dyed chicken feathers, he did not share that information with his wife. He just wanted to get back on the ship and have a G&T.

“Let’s follow them!” whispered Liz, grabbing Chrissie’s hand and pulling her toward the enormous Matson liner. From the dock, the SS Mariposa loomed above their heads, its sleek white sides both indimidating and exciting. As they approached, tourists on the upper deck waved at them and tossed coins down into the bay. “Little boys!” called one lady. “See if you can find this shilling in the water!”

Chrissie looked around to see who they were shouting at. Both girls were barefoot and deeply tanned, their hair cut short for convenience against the humidity. She supposed that Liz could be mistaken for a boy, but puberty had hit her hard and fast and those simple shifts her mother made for her suddenly had to have a lot of darts in them. Liz muttered something out of the side of her mouth about stupid tourists thinking they were pearl divers from the Philippines and pushed Chrissie forward.

Before she realized what Liz had in mind, they were halfway up the gangplank, trailing behind Mr. and Mrs. Bertie. “Look like you belong to them,” whispered Liz. No one even glanced at them as they boarded the ship, and as their British surrogate parents headed toward the bar, the girls ducked around a stack of deck chairs and collapsed into giggles. “I can’t believe we just did that!” gasped Chrissie.

“Let’s go explore the ship,” said Liz. “I bet nobody pays any attention to us at all.” Liz was correct, although it seemed impossible to believe that the people in charge would not question the right of two pre-teen girls (one of them wearing a red bandana-like fabric shirt with an orange Fanta stain on it that was buttoned up incorrectly) to be roaming around a luxury cruise ship.

There was a pool on board with a tiki bar that looked very much the one at the Pago Pago International Hotel, but the girls barely glanced at it. If they wanted to see Polynesian decorations, they could go sit in their living rooms. The dining room was elegant and spacious, with white cloth tables already set for dinner. “This is going to be a really fancy meal,” whispered Chrissie, who knew from her own cruise ship experience that the more silverware involved, the higher the nose of the waiter. They found a tiny elevator and went up two decks, hoping they might be able to find an open stateroom. There was a garbled announcement coming over the loudspeaker, but between the giggling and the British accent, it was unintelligible.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” announced Liz, as they passed a door with fancy gold script that said Ladies Lounge. The bathroom was more ornate than any other space, and they were astonished to see small bottles of lotion and baskets of fruit just there for the taking. “You could live in here,” exclaimed Chrissie, stretching out on the leather divan. “Imagine if we were stowaways — we could sail around the world and use this as our hiding place.”

In one corner of the room, there was tall standing scale with a little weight that could be moved back and forth. “Hey, look, I weigh 87 pounds!” shouted Liz, who apparently had the metabolism of a border collie. Chrissie did not want to step onto this device with her friend standing next to her, for it would be the equivalent of putting up posters in every classroom in school, but she knew she had no choice.

“Wow, 112 pounds,” said Liz in a hushed tone. “Your new boobs must weigh a lot.” Two well-dressed women entered the lounge and looked at them quizzically and Chrissie took that as an opportunity to dash out of the open door.  “We need to get out of here; we’re going to get in trouble,” she called back to Liz as she ran through the narrow hallways, trying to find the elevator they had come up on. Fifteen minutes of increasing panic later, they finally found the lift and quickly pressed the down button. As the doors closed, the tail-end of an announcement suddenly sounded crystal clear: “The Mariposa is leaving this harbor in ten minutes. All visitors must disembark immediately.”

“It’s okay,” soothed Liz, as she saw the look on her friend’s face, “we’ve got ten minutes.” Before she had even finished the sentence, the elevator jerked to a stop, but the door didn’t open. Chrissie punched the down button again, but the elevator did not move. Visions of being trapped while the ship sailed to Tahiti filled her head and the image of her father’s face when he landed in Bora Bora to pick her up made her pound on the panel until every circle was lit. “Open the damn door!” she shouted. “We’re not passengers – we’re palagis! For God’s sake, look at the way we’re dressed!” Her panic was infectious, and now Liz was throwing all of her 87 pounds at the door, only to bounce off and land on the floor, stunned.

“Excuse me,” said a very British voice, “do you young ladies require assistance?”

A tall man holding a screw driver stood in the open door. “I do apologize. This one sticks occasionally. May I escort you to the exit?”

A few minutes later they were back on the dock, having been unceremoniously frog-marched to the ramp and then pointedly watched by the purser until they were on dry land. Chrissie thought about dropping to her knees and kissing the ground but was too shaken to make the dramatic gesture.

“You know,” mused Liz, “this is just like at the end of The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy realizes that there’s no place like. . .”
“Shut up, Liz,” Chrissie interrupted. “I am never listening to you again. And if you tell anyone how much I weigh, I’m going to say you wet your pants in the elevator.
“But I didn’t!” Liz wailed.
“I know that, but I’m going to tell everyone you did!”
Liz stomped away across the now empty malai, and Chrissie headed in the opposite direction, grateful not to be going to Bora Bora. “You know,” she thought, “there really is no place like home.”

October 2, 2015

Post 76 — The Write to Remain Silent

Everyone takes a turn writing to the family back home.

Everyone takes a turn writing to the family back home.

With Larry off in California visiting Stanford with the Samoan group, Jean took over the correspondence to the family back in Detroit. Since most of the new and interesting Samoan experiences had been covered in the past three and a half years, the letters tended to focus more on the Broquet girls and how they were growing. You could only mention the non-stop parties so many times before everyone got really irritated.

“Karen’s girlfriend who had gone to Seattle is back so now she has someone to fight with. Kathy and Carolyn are going around with the same gang of kids and are thick as thieves. They even changed bedrooms around so they could share one. Chris is right in the middle of growing and is very much aware of it. The other day she said she really didn’t enjoy playing with dolls anymore but couldn’t think of anything as a replacement so she has been reading a lot and alternately being nice and nasty to Karen. She is the only one of the group so far who has gotten chubby. She is not fat, but kind of hippy through the hips and middle. We are trying to discourage the third and fourth helping of potatoes.”

While her daughters may have wished for a little more discretion while discussing their journey through puberty, the truth was that Jean often censored herself when she wrote to the family. The slightly white-washed version of their life made everyone at home feel more comfortable, and Jean didn’t have to constantly explain why it sounded like they were living in a state of alcoholic bliss and free love. Her letters to Larry were a little more chatty.

June 25, 1967 

Dear Larry, 

If they are sober enough to remember, I am going to have the Grants mail this in Honolulu. There is to be a small party next door so I will take it over when I am finished. 

After we dropped you at the airport, the ride back home was uneventful. However, about four o’clock in the morning, the phone rang and it was Barb P. – she wanted to know if her daughter Diana was here. Carolyn, (she who claims she never sleeps) when asked if she had seen her, muttered something unintelligible but Kathy said she had seen her at the airport. I relayed this information back to Mrs. P. It seems that after Bill had brought Diana home, she had turned around when no one was paying any attention and snuck out the door. Myra F. said she and Riley were spotted walking down the Tafuna road at nine o’clock the next morning. Already the word is out that Gordon K. is furious at his parents because they won’t allow him to go the “all night picnic at the sand pile.” Stay tuned. 

Karen had the shortest case of mumps in history, if that is what she had. No swelling or nothing. Just the runny nose and bad breath. 

Kathy is trying on an old dress and holding out all the excess material as a result of her five pound weight loss. Carolyn said very enviously, “Gee, I wish I had someone to break up with so I could lose weight.” 

We started out to see a movie but Karen, who didn’t want to go in the first place, threw a temper tantrum about being hungry. She is on her third bowl of Cheerios but I still think it was an act. 

Carolyn just called from the club and wanted to know if she could go out to the airport. I said no. She didn’t even ask why. 

We all went to 5:00 mass today and the sermon was all about St. Peter. Father Lynch was telling about how Jesus was walking on the water and Peter wanted to, too. So he did, then did a double take and started to sink. The next line was “Ye of little faith!”, but Karen misunderstood it to be “You little fink.” He does have that strange eastern accent! 

We have that large cat with the funny voice staying under the house and he’s in heat. Apparently he is confused about the gender of our cat. He also has a ripped open hide — must have been in a fight. Also a large bloody patch on the back of his neck. 

The phone just rang. Kathy wants to know if she could go to the airport. I said no. She didn’t even ask why.