I returned from my three-day camping trip more tired than relaxed. I had denied any surfers that had wanted to stay while I thought I would be gone. Being home, I checked requests and Jack Hu was still looking for a place to stay. He is from China and his native name is Zhongjie. He was living in Chicago for almost two years and wanted to see some more of the U.S. before going home.
He was messaging me from Los Angeles and I agreed to let him stay. There was a miscommunication and he stayed there an extra day. I was expecting him by lunch yesterday, but he replies at 4:40 pm that he planned on arriving at 9:00 pm. I could’ve understood had he been traveling with public transportation or getting a ride, but he chose to arrive that late – who does that?
He brought me a red Buddha jewelry item and though not religious himself enjoys the time spent with family – even if it is in a temple. We talked for the next two hours and then he asked for a shower and if I had a washer/dryer – that is out in the garage. He said laundry could wait and grabbed some bags from his car. He would take a shower and I left him to unwind for the night. He would eat some crackers before sleeping.
In the morning, I went to take a shower and I’m used to others leaving the shower part on, instead of the bath, so that it sprays on my back when I turn the water on. This wasn’t the case. Instead water started to spray on the ceiling. Somehow Jack had broken my shower head and didn’t bother to tell me. Luckily I have a detachable shower head as well and that wasn’t broken. I finished my shower and then told him, “Even though this house may be old, it’s a kind gesture of guests to tell their hosts when they break their things.”
He said he took a shower. I agreed. I told him I already called maintenance and it wasn’t too big of a deal, but that he should’ve told me. It would’ve been a bigger issue had I been responsible for paying for it. He should’ve asked for help if he didn’t understand. And I should have shown him how it works, and directions it doesn’t move, before letting him in there – lesson learned.
We decide on Bruegger’s Bagels on Coronado for breakfast. He gets an egg and cheese bagel and I get one with cream cheese and a coconut coffee. We had planned on going to the Coronado Golf Course, but left after he needed a collared shirt and we needed a tee time. I will know better for next time. So we head to our next destination – the USS Midway Museum. I’ve heard it recommended to lots of tourists and I forget that not everyone has been on a naval aircraft carrier before – as I was only a guest on one.
I didn’t feel like getting another parking ticket and didn’t know how long we would be downtown. I wanted a garage or lot with a fixed amount. Seaport Village has no max – never parking there, so we drove to the museum lot and paid $10 for the day. We were welcomed aboard at 9:47 am. Of course the hangar bay looked different with a gift shop and audio tour booth, but it was still large enough to overwhelm Jack.
The audio tour comes in six languages – English, Spanish, German, Chinese, etc. We put them around our neck – the strap for the headphones and the heavy phone-looking device with no clip for attachment to a belt or purse which made it somewhat of a burden. We made our way to the flight deck first. He was so interested in everything about the ship – the size, the amount of things, time, people, functionality. I enjoyed being able to tell him about some things – like the case with the life raft and gear enclosed.
Once up in the pilot house and chart room, Jack had fun learning about the different machines used to steer the ship and allow the planes to take off and land successfully. He wondered why so many people were needed as crew on here and as the tour continued he began to grasp why. This ship with room for 5,000+ people is a lot different from the one I was stationed on, a LSD, with room for 400 sailors, 300 marines, and 20 contractors. Parts of the tour left me in awe and others had me feeling nostalgic of when I met Caleb.
Jack enjoyed the simplicity, yet complexity of the communications systems onboard. He took a turn at the pilot’s wheel and in the boss’s chair. We got to watch part of a retirement ceremony (the docent told us it’s easy to tell because everyone is smiling) and a re-enlistment. There were plenty of uniforms abound which brings the past and present together. After touring the ‘bridge’ it was back to take a look inside some of the planes and helos with doors open and some seats available.
We agreed that there are a lot of buttons and switches for the size of the aircraft. I knew the ejection switch and missile launch and we both knew the gearstick. We came up the starboard side. Down the port side brought us to the pilots, officers, dining, and communications area. I told him how a bullseye works like a map letting us know what level we are on and in what reference to the front or rear of the ship.
*an article on the history of the dinner service
I was surprised to see so many rooms with chairs and screens for pilots being briefed before combat. It reminded me of the film Top Gun and there is actually a reference to it in one of the rooms. It was neat to see an older version of my work console, bigger with more buttons, lit up for all to see and inquire about. I also told Jack about what some of the pipes are for on the ceiling, the water-tight ability of the doors and described some of the things he couldn’t see – enlisted berthing and ships food storage.
He liked the pneumatic message tubes that send news around the ship with compressed air – just like what banks use at drive-thrus. We were both surprised by the chapel on board; my ship only had a chaplain. The barber room was unexpected for Jack and I told him that the men have their hair cut frequently to abide by regulations, so one is definitely needed onboard for underways and deployments.
Their laundry room was impressive with large washers and dryers, Dyna-Wash machines, and another room with ironing presses and a sewing machine for repairs and patches. The kitchens (sculleries) were large too with plenty of cooking pots big enough to put me in. There is a lighted sign in the passageway letting sailors know which side of the ship to line up on to eat. It takes a lot of people, efficiency, and space to serve so much food three times a day and still get everyone fed and work done.
There is a surgeon’s room onboard along with the typical clinic room, x-ray space, a pharmacy, and a full dentist office. The ‘hospital’ may be used by the smaller ships in the fleet, usually consisting of 5-7 vessels. The patient can be helo’d over for anything that aspirin and water can’t fix – the two main prescriptions from a navy doc. Two and a half hours on a ship and Jack was ready for some local seafood.
We look at the Kissing Statue and the Bob Hope Memorial on our way to The Fish Market. Apparently there is a different restaurant upstairs, but we were quickly seated outside on the patio to hear the ocean, boats, birds, and conversation of fellow eaters. Jack ordered the rockfish ‘because it was the first thing on the menu’ under entrees. I ordered a veggie roll and some sweet potato fries that I didn’t finish because of the size of the order.
We left full and with plenty of energy. We walked to Seaport Village. We got to see a clown escape handcuffs and then went into the famous Harley Davidson store to see what that was all about. Jack got the random idea to rent a boat or something that would put us on the water. The cheap sign drew us in to Seaforth Boat Rentals in the marina. We would rent a sea kayak for an hour – $25, with a $100 refundable deposit.
They kept my camera dry for me behind the counter, but there is a little dry spot for some keys and a cellphone on the kayak. Jack wants to wear a life vest, so I don mine too instead of worrying about them falling into the water – good idea. Through the marina is easy, slow, looking at boats. We soon get to the harbor with a current and watercrafts causing wakes. I’m in front since I’ve done this before and can steer, but I didn’t realize how many breaks Jack would want to take.
When I would look back and not see his paddle moving, I would stop too and let us get closer to the rocks until I heard him paddle again. I also told him that if he would paddle on both sides it would make it easier on me. We made it to the marina in front of Ruocco Park before deciding to head back to the rental dock. Along our way we got waves from children and adult alike and some hellos too. I’m grateful for the experience, but I was glad to be back on land. I got more sun, water, and a workout than I had planned.
We will walk to the convention center, me with a wet butt and him with heavy trousers. This will be my first time walking this length of the harbor. We went up the stairs, through a large empty room, and then down the stairs on the other side. We did some exploring of the Gaslamp Quarter – a Lamborghini on the street, a bathtub in a bar, a mural in a shop window, and some girls in shorts at the bus stop.
Our next place of intent – the Mexico border. I didn’t have my passport on me and Jack told me his visa wouldn’t allow him over. I was fine with a picture in front of the sign. He wanted to park close, but not pay the $10. We were able to find a spot a few blocks away and hoof it by the shops and trolley to the huge gray sign. Once his photo was taken it was time to look through some duty-free shops (some good deals and others filled with broken shipments) and buy some cherries to eat on the way back to the car.
We eventually make it back home, not to rest, but to change out of our salty clothes and wet shoes and decide which beach we will go to for the evening. We had planned on Sunset Cliffs and they are pretty in the clouds, but I suggested he try to see them in the morning on his way out when it might not be so overcast. So we decided on Imperial Beach; we could ride bikes there. I had a good laugh when Jack stood beside Caleb’s bike and tried to swing his leg over it.
We may all have bad qualities, but Jack is determined. He drove here by himself from Chicago and through Oklahoma and wasn’t going to let a little height difference get in his way. He got on my old bike which is a little lower and I told him to just keep pedaling. We made it to the end of the street and I remembered the farmer’s market. We were going to walk down there since Jack had already used the curb to dismount, but this guy sitting there with his two daughters started talking about bike theft, so we took them with.
He got a cup of fruit salad with a bit of chili powder – delicious, as always. I got some tiny fried thing that’s supposed to be filled with guava and cream cheese. There is another vendor selling a similar product that I will have to try next time. We walked by all the other booths and then sat down to watch a game of chess. Jack would play next and lose to a navy guy while I talked to his girlfriend, talk to Caleb on the phone, and eat some samosas and baklava (closest to Saba’s without the flame).
We would ride the bikes home in the dark, and we weren’t the only ones. He hadn’t eaten dinner, so we walked across the street to Don Panchos and he ordered a chorizo burrito. It had been a long day with lots of walking, learning, and excitement. Jack starts to warm up to Sparky and rolls his ball on the floor for him. Once I know he is ready to unwind alone I go into my room to read while he eats and updates Couchsurfing – neat to see in Chinese.
The next morning comes early for me and I have plans. I let Jack stay though because I would invite him to come to the Pride Parade with me. I’m sure plenty of other straight guys said no unless they were happily married with their wife or sure enough of themselves and their sexuality to support others finding their way. He woke up in front of the computer while I read and let the dogs out. His things packed, a hug is exchanged, and we are both on the road for the adventure that awaits us.