Red Coke Red Cross


Right about this time – 40 years ago – that we decided to hell with the car and the comfort of home. We stepped foot on a barge and started for the unknown. As we found out later, there were many of those. Luckier than others who had to pull down the flags before allowed to starboard Subic Bay, Philippines; we got pulled, intermittently, by a tow boat and eventually aboard an US navy ship. The abandoned barge made for poor helipad: one chopper’s wings just did not fit the width, since it was walled on both sides with sand bags. As a result, the detached rotor blades swung wildly, causing all of us to duck for one last time. One man found himself with a duffel bag full of then-worthless currency, payroll intended for the stateless troop maybe. In the back of the ship, he tossed them one handful at a time, the way CIA men had shredded classified documents at the embassy the day before. I was quite thirsty by the time we landed three days later. Had there been an E-bay, it would make it easier to push those currency as war souvenir. But necessity was the mother of invention. I solicited (direct sales) to any Navy personnel there. My first earned sales dollar went to the Coke machine. And the classic Coke brand delivered: thirst quenching with a tang. Later on, when I needed to apply for college, it’s the Red Cross that offered services such as document translation and bulletin board to find relatives (the same way college students would share a ride to and from campus on holidays). Had there been a Uber back then! I was among a few who applied to Penn State with a Red Cross high school document. It stated that this grade was an equivalent of that grade. The Red Cross was facilitating a transition as much as providing a translation. Much later, when Bill Murray was sitting beside Scarlett Johansson in “Lost in Translation”, he was quite perceptive and graceful under jet lag. The bartender was pouring him drinks, the stuff that greases the social wheel. Sophia Coppola directed this flick, while her father had been much well-known for Apocalypse Now. Somewhere between traffic of Saigon, which never stops even at intersections, and the field of Pennsylvania, where traffic came to a full stop at the STOP sign (even in pouring rain and deserted street), I found myself lost in translation, of culture, currency and common language. Yet through it all, Red Coke and Red Cross endure ( I am sure the organization is now mobilizing for Nepal quake victims). Those translated documents got me in school, heavy (used) text books got me thinking, questioning and reflecting. Scarlett Johansson also played “Lucy”. And in one of her swipes on the presumably I-phone, Times Square of yesterday and today, were just a blink apart. For me, every turn, even unknown unknown , is a good turn, in the grain of time.

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