Monday, March 29, 2010

"Let that man on the Boat"
And just as the Santo Domingo  policeman with the automatic weapon was trying to handcuff me, the cruise director ran down the gang way and handed my ticket to the officer. The cop let go of me and it was the first moment I felt I might  actually get off the island with all my stuff.  But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

In the very early days of my career, I was hired to fly to Santiago Santa Domingo, board the Marconi, a cruise ship, and sail back to New York.  It was my very first experience on a cruise ship.  On board the Marconi a New York production company was filming a movie for cable called "Don't Rock the Boat" or the "Maltese Capon,"  an ill written spoof of the Maltese Falcon mystery.  I had a small part as a night club performer. It was a troubled production, actors quit before filming, leads had to be switched and the logistics of doing a movie on a cruise ship at that time was daunting.  They were touting the fact that it was the first movie ever shot entirely on a cruise ship at sea.  I don't think the movie was actually ever sold or released.  The Marconi was dry docked in an American port a month later for "health violations" and soon after taken out of service.

JoAnne Worley was one of the actors in the film. It was on this trip that JoAnne and I met  and we have been friends ever since.  But, again, I am getting ahead of myself.

After changing planes in New York, I landed in Santo Domingo.  Unfortunately my luggage did not arrive with me.  This included my partner Bob who was to perform with me in the movie.  It was the first time I had ever had trouble with checked luggage.  It was extremely stressful made worse by the fact that I was in a foreign country.  It was after this trip that I designed a case that would allow me to carry Bob on the plane and I have never checked him since.  

From the hotel I called my manager.  He had been able to track down the luggage and it would be on the first flight from New York the next morning.  My instructions were, go the to airport to meet that flight.  If the luggage is not on that flight, catch the first flight home... don't get on the boat.  I spent the equivelint  of $40 US dollars on a toothbrush and  razor at the over priced hotel gift shop, and  a really lonely night wondering if I would ever see my stuff again.

The next morning I checked out of the hotel and made my way to the airport.  The luggage arrived (that's another chapter to this story... later), so now all I have to do is get on the boat.  A cab driver drops me off at the dock, which is empty save a few shady dock workers at the far end of the pier.  I can see the ship in the distance as it approaches.  I look very much out of place on the dock with my luggage.  In the mean time I have found some shade under the eve of a dock side shack to wait out the arrival of the Marconi. 

One worker slinks up to me, and in broken English he says, "So  you are from California, eh? You are a long way from home."  He had already sized me up and read the name tags on my luggage.  I definitely had the feeling I was being set up for some kind of scam.  He asked me if I needed help with my luggage, I politely told him I was fine. That didn't seem to be the answer he wanted from me and he left.

Soon after a police officer appeared and approached me. He looked like one of Castro's soldiers in green fatigues and an Uzi strapped around his shoulder.  He wanted to know what I was doing.  I told him that I was here to get on that boat.  It was visible on the horizon so I pointed out to it.  He said, "Let me see your ticket."  I told him I didn't have it with me, the ticket was on the boat.  He said, "How will you get on the boat to get a ticket, if you don't have a ticket to get on the boat.   Let me see your passport."  He took my passport and walked away.

After what seemed like hours the boat tied up to the dock, 20 feet from my shady spot.  It was very impressive to see this huge ship suddenly dominate the small dock.  The gangway was secured and I picked up my stuff and headed that way.  In retrospect, after boarding many ships, it seems odd  to me that no one was getting off the ship while I was trying to get on.

Although I had not seen him since he took my passport the cop appeared again and stopped me at the foot of the gang way.  "Where is your ticket?" he said. I told him again it was on the boat, and he insisted that I didn't get on the boat with out a ticket. I told him I would need my passport to get my ticket. He thought for a moment, took my passport out of his breast pocket and gave it back to me.
JoAnne was watching this exchange from the deck above and yelled to the cop, "Let that man on the Boat." I yelled back that the police wouldn't let me on the boat without my ticket.  JoAnne yelled again, "Let that man on the boat." And disappeared. 

I had my passport but the cop was right beside me and I was going nowhere.  Suddenly there was a scuffle down the way and the cop ran over to take care of business.  Everything started happening at once.  Three crew guys ran down the gangway and grabbed my luggage and hauled it up the plank.  There was only room enough on the gangway for single passage so I had to wait for the luggage  to clear a path.  I quickly started up the gangway but the cop spotted me and gave chase. He caught me and grabbed me half way up the gangway. He had my arm and was struggling to twist it behind my back to cuff me.  At the same moment the cruise director was running down the gangway with some paper work.  It was my ticket.  He handed it to the cop, who checked it carefully and let me go.  As if he had been reborn  a different person he politely said, "You have a ticket, you can get on board."  

To this day, even across a crowded room, if JoAnne Worley sees me she will yell out in her overriding voice.  "Let that Man on the boat," and we laugh.  The perspective of time often makes terrifying events quite amusing.
As you were,

1 comment:

Roomie said...

Love her, love the story.....and love you as well.....
Carry on,