by Gianfranco Menghini
California, no more
The after the 2nd world war for people with limited means, especially for those who the few possessed before had lost them in the war, offered two outlets for a young man of the center-south of Italy. Emigrating to the north and take up any low job or go working abroad. The foreign country since that time which appreciates the Italians crew was the United States. Roberto accepts a boarding on an American tanker, which he must reach by plane at the Port of Los Angeles: Wilmington. The mere fact of having to fly all the way to that destination, excites him to the point that he accepts, although recently having obtained the diploma of intermating studies, without any possibility to continue them at the University of Rome. We were in 1957, and although the abject poverty begins to wane, thanks to the slow reconstruction of a nation severely injured by the war, the prospect of any employment is very few. The experience on the sea will accrue Paul, making him tough to fatigue and discomfort, but not enough to make him abandon the studies, of. He can of learn to the perfection the American language which will help him to climb the career in the oil company for which he hired, thanks for the support of Elizabeth, wife of an Admiral of the US Navy, known since his arrival in California and mother of his future spouse Sharon. The breathtaking with on the seas around the world with the epilog in the Californian port, tragic in its brutality, but for some combination lucky and advantageous subsequently for Paolo who, after deep and much thought, decided to do a definite step…
Read an excerpt from the book
‘Jesus! What suffering … I do not take it anymore …’ moaned the young guy feebly.
He was worn out in his bed and was trying to find a more comfortable position not to suffer that terrible seasickness that oppressed him since the night before. From when they had left the port of Wilmington, not yet rounded the breakwater, had entered the Pacific Ocean, with a sea that as they had moved away from the coast, had become more and rougher. Such his companions explained him that matter. It was not a storm, only a strong wind from the west that had inflated the waves up to four meters. It was not much, but since took it on the beam, the ship rolled considerably. And then, as said the right sailors who knew it well, that ship was not the best for a marine vessel. Launched in the Hamburg yards just after the end of World War II, had built with cast iron plates recovered from the bombing, and it soon should turn into a block of rust. Beyond that, it designed with the round bottom with a small keel neither some wing lets that would contrast it, so that the rolling move was highlighted in a sea precisely rough, especially when they are sailing empty, weighed down only by the ballast necessary for safe navigation.
That oil tanker, like many others, was part of the American plan for rebuilding the devastated German economy, almost to the collapse. Lacking the raw materials, the Germans had none other than those derived from the ferrous material of the bombing recovery, which once cast melted on various tasks even if properly treated, gave no certainties, in the long run, to remain compact and, above all, rusting it too quickly.
The young man had not imagined even remotely he could suffer the seasickness neither it would be so painful, despite excruciating, until not manage to get used. He should want to die so much suffering made him believe in finishing his days. The boatswain had suspended him from work, redirecting him to his lodging, as soon as the maneuver and setting on unmooring were ended, giving him a friendly pat on the shoulder.
“It is a regular thing at the first sailing experience. You’ll see that it will pass, and you will become soon a … sea dog,” he said to him, smiling with a touch of irony.
He was a man of few words. Tuscan from Viareggio, when pronounced those words with that convincing inflection that few people, except the Tuscans, have, managed to make to his opinion a sense of wit, seasoned with some subtle irony and remains of humor. Difficult to find there some malice. And for what then, especially to a young ship-boy just embarked on the other end in the world, who did nothing than look with admiration all. Exactly that ship, that only he found magnificent, but most of the crew, after an exhausting delay that had frightened them, the entire team considered unreliable.
The big ship was sailing directly to a semi-unknown port in the island of Sumatra. Having they told him that the crossing could be long, the guy was frightened by the idea that the rolling should last who knows how …
If at least he should not be so hasty when had proposed him to embark on that tanker! However, the idea of going to the other side of the hemisphere by air to reach Wilmington, the oil port of Los Angeles, fascinated him. He used to live in a small provincial town, where the only important things were the marriages, the feast of the patron and the usual gossip. After the middle school, he had commuted to the nearby city where he attended the high school, getting a year in advance the bachelor’s degree. Then he remained undecided what to do for more than a year, in the hope that would find him employment. Nevertheless, with the bachelor’s degree, unless to participate in some public contest to win a probably place in the State’s administration, he had no perspective other than to continue the studies. So that, after being had basked in the sunshine the entire summer on the beaches, he did not hesitate when in September received the telegram for a summoning that had electrified him, consequently, that the previous days the departure was no longer himself in a bare excitement. At last, he should visit the world, the real one. Not through the news over the radio or the repetitive show on television on Thursday night at the Bar Sport or the American war movies or those which he most liked, about the brilliant life of the characters, who lived in the luxury.
The telegram was inviting him to present himself in Genoa for a medical examination but, above all, to reach the California by plane … a modern four engines! California … Los Angeles, San Francisco! The traditional country’s names who had fixed in his mind that he had always dreamed with open eyes.
It was 1957. The effects of the war still felt themselves. In Italy was in action the accurate reconstruction and working families of any level continued to tighten their belts, although a little less than during the war. However, the work, other than to be scant, was also poorly paid. His father was one of the few lucky and brings home a real wage. Already since some years, he was embarked on those tankers of the Pantex, one of the largest American oil companies. It acted as boatswain and had been he, despite reluctant, but after his son’s insistence, to make a request to an official friend of the agency in Genoa representing the shipping company, to get him the embarkation, convinced that after that experience, his son should realize how would be hard the life on board and taking advantage of the first stopover the ship would make in any European port, he should ask to go home…