Thursday, January 24, 2008

USNS ED Patrick

[Reminder: Some of my posts, including this one, are memoirs of my abusive childhood. In this post I'm relating events that happened in November 1957, when I was 8. The links to the right can be used to follow backward through the memoirs, or to restrict viewing to other kinds of posts.]

In the morning, my Mother and I (and Koko, the dog -- I keep forgetting to mention him!) were taken to the Port of San Francisco. We boarded the troop transport ship USNS E.D. Patrick. This was jokingly referred to as a "boat" by crew, but it looked like a giant cruise-liner to inexperienced me.

The ship was a combination passenger and cargo ship that operated between the West Coast of America and Asia from about 1950 to the late 60s. Koko was our cargo. He had to go into a traveling box and reside in it in a sheltered cargo area on an aft deck. We would have to walk him in the cargo area several times a day during the trip.

Look at me! I just said "aft"! This was the trip where I learned to say "I'm going up the ladder" instead of "I'm going upstairs". I learned to say "decks" not "floors".

After the ship set out into San Francisco Bay we all had to line up on one of the lower decks and receive instructions on putting on life jackets. We endured a test of the ships emergency sirens while we approached the Golden Gate Bridge. Then we could take the jackets off, they were collected and with the horn blaring we passed under the bridge. Trés Jungian. The auspicious beginning!

About an hour out to sea, when land was no longer visible, I was puking. I puked on deck. A sailor led me to the rail and invited me to puke into the ocean in the future. I immediately did so. He said, "stay there, I'll get you something for that." While he was gone I puked a couple more times into the Pacific. He came back with a big bag of saltine crackers and a glass of lemonade. I spent several hours sitting near the rail, eating saltines and sipping lemonade, and periodically puking.

I was still puking about once every half hour or so when a girl came up alongside me and asked me my name. She was about my age, sandy blond, and cute. I told her "Wesley" and she asked what it meant. I said I didn't think it meant anything, it was just the name of some guy who lived a long time ago and is dead now. She said, "Well, my name is Diana. Diana is the goddess of the hunt."

I said, "What sort of hunt?" She said, "All kinds. Deer, maybe. Or people." She smiled. I realized at that moment that my newest girlfriend had found me. Then I puked again, and she said, "You'll get over that soon, don't worry."

Who, me, worry?

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