Category Archives: Randy’s Story

Randy Ford Author- Until the government forgave him

      It hadn’t sunk in.   She didn’t want to think about it.   She had been very good and had gone along with it and had even taken part ownership of the decision.   A first: it was a first for her; it could’ve even been the first time in her life, but she knew that that wasn’t true, or even a half-truth.   They no longer slept in a bed; but they planned to take it easy for a whole week in a hotel before they took off, the two of them alone, and she had many more things she wanted to share with him.   He hadn’t chewed her head off yet.   Sometimes when she thought about it she would shake her head in amazement and say to herself, “I really got away with something.”   And a little later she would nod.   Concerning such matters she knew it was about time.

      And she wasn’t totally surprised.   Susan had always thought she needed to confront him.   A big part of her problem was that in spite of all of their talk about the importance of equality in a marriage, she never insisted that he treat her equally.   Up until then Ted had made major decisions, and all she ever did was make suggestions.   The issue, which had been in the back of her mind for a very long time, had become important, in a major way, when Ted’s draft notice arrived.

      So Susan and Ted were going to take a very long trip.   Her parents wanted to know about that (a tour, apparently a long tour, a tour of the world, and she didn’t tell them about Ted’s draft situation).   But they didn’t need to know about everything.   They wanted to know how they could keep in touch with them.   They were going to have use poste restante; and after a few letters they asked how long they were gone for.   Until the government forgave Ted they would continue to live and travel overseas.   But they couldn’t be that direct with Susan’s parents.   Part of the deal Susan made was that they remain vague with her parents.   So Susan’s parents worried, but they didn’t say anything.   Ted had (in an indirect way) told his father, and his father told his mother, but his father wouldn’t accept the truth.   He wasn’t a very happy camper.   But since Ted had been on his own his parents hadn’t interfered.   It was their belief that since he was an adult, on his own, and with a wife, they couldn’t say anything.   Both sets of parents had begun thinking that Susan and Ted would never come home; at least that was how it seemed.

      Very soon after his draft board hadn’t heard from him and he hadn’t reported for his physical, he would cross a point of no return.   He could scarcely believe it.   On the run!   And he had a wife, and she was going with him.   They would first fly to Singapore.   They knew nothing about Singapore.   They were free and young and maybe stupid; but what could happen to them?   He began to suffer from paranoia.   He would carry their passports and their papers in a leather pouch and their travelers’ checks and money (except for “shoe money”) in a money belt, both items he purchased on Mabini Street for a song.   Before too long he would’ve been too old for the draft, and he figured that was why they were after him.   He assumed his draft board would come after him with a vengeance and already had him on some list at all airports.   What made him think that he could run away?   But then he didn’t really care.   He talked big about going to prison before fighting in Vietnam; it would be a fight, a fight he thought he could win in the long run.   He decided that he had been all along an expatriate.   It was an image he claimed for himself, an independent individual who thought independently.

      Eventually word got around that Susan and Ted were dropping out of the Peace Corps.   And when they all heard that they weren’t going straight home all kinds of stories started circulating.   One story had Ted being pressured out of the university and booted out of the Peace Corps.   Other stories involved scandals.   These stories could’ve been true or made up; they easily could’ve made a case that Ted had crossed the line and compromised his position with the Peace Corps, and as far as scandals, let’s not touch that one.   And then Don came back to Manila to say goodbye, and that led to more speculation.   Ted felt perfectly calm through all of this speculation; as far as he was concern he had already faced the guillotine.   After a while he made up a story about Susan becoming pregnant and that they wanted see as much of the world as they could before they were saddled with a baby.   (That one he kind of liked.)   The idea of becoming a father kind of seemed okay.   It would give him another reason for avoiding Vietnam.   He thought that it might go easier for him if they had a child.

      That last week in Manila, Susan and Ted stayed in a hotel.   She said, “Why don’t we stay where we first stayed.”   And they did.   And rode around the city in jeapneys and on buses, avoiding all the familiar places.   But other people wanted to see them off at the airport.   One day, tracking them down through the Peace Corps, Mr. Araya located them at the hotel.   Mr. Araya said, “I want your address.”   And they exchanged addresses.

Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- Manila and an earthquake

     Manila hadn’t changed a lot since Susan and Ted arrived.   It was just as chaotic, with masses of people and traffic or jammed traffic circles taking the place of order and reason.   From afar it had the appearance of any other large Asian city.   The same wide disparity between the rich and the poor; with the very rich occupying their compounds and the poor overpopulating their shanties, the middle class was outnumbered by both.   This was from where discontent grew.   It festered while Ted and Susan were there.   The open rebellion Ted saw flared up more and more frequently, and there was always a demonstration somewhere.   In the rainy season, in some places, the streets would flood waist-high; and that typhoon had blown in and blown out like crazy.   Huge fires (often caused by humans) left whole sections of the city in ruins; and, as with forest fires, the recovery always began immediately.   Sometimes walls were left standing, only to be blown over later, killing people sometimes.   Everywhere there was rebuilding, with hod carriers mixing and carrying cement and block layers laying block.   Some people were in the repair business, marketing patch it and don’t pitch it, and Susan and Ted lived across the street from a gas station.   It looked busy, with cars, buses, and jeepnies pulling out of there all the time.   The chaos was something they had to get used to.

      Their apartment was better than most in Manila.   It had running water, having a pump made it possible.   It was the low water pressure or having no water at all that created the extreme fire danger; fires that would displace thousands of people.   Their one entrance was in the front.   A very long, narrow walkway from the front to the street was what increased the risk of them getting trapped in their place, if heaven forbid there was ever a fire.   On both sides of the walkway there were separate apartment buildings, with kids and more kids and with parents who were pulling their hair out.   All the buildings seemed linked because there was no space between the walls (which with no firewall increased the danger).   Ted and Susan never worked out a contingency plan for what to do in case of a fire, but man, it wouldn’t have been easy to come up with one.

      It was hot for November.   They had already gotten rid of all of their furniture.   They were sleeping on the floor.   Ted wore a T-shirt and boxer shorts.   Without looking at Susan he could see her in the lightweight summer pajamas she always wore to bed, which was silly considering how hot it sometimes got.   He had rigged the mosquito netting, similar to a tent, from the ceiling.   Casually, enjoying a rare moment, they talked for most of the night, chitchating mostly.   Linda was already gone; Don was back in Mindanao, or somewhere.   The window was open, and they heard their neighbors fight with each other.   They always fought.   Would you believe they didn’t have air-conditioning?   Susan, without knowing why, started talking about her feelings.   The empty room suddenly felt full of things that Ted wanted to chuck (these were hard things), and the story about an early date when he forced himself on her (they were making out in a parking lot and went too far for her).   There really wasn’t time enough to talk about everything, every time he had forced her to do something.   For a long time she talked, telling Ted that at some point it had to stop, and, as she went on, she began to cry.   That was when the floor began to shake; oh God, the floor went one way; the ceiling, the other way, and before the shaking stopped, they thought they saw a fire in their neighbor’s apartment.

      “Fire!” he shouted, and in less than a minute they were running out the door.   She had a pale, white face; she stumbled as she ran.   He had grabbed her hand, his wife, as she was all he had, and pulled; and they almost fell down the stairs.   The scared couple ran…and she was scared indeed, really scared, couldn’t have been more scared (with it being her first major earthquake), and against which she had no defenses…ran out the front door, down the walkway, all the way to the street.   Immediately hundreds of people joined them.   Some of them sat down on the curb; none of them had taken the time to grab anything, except maybe grab someone’s hand.   Some held babies.   Others counted heads and looked for missing children.   All of that time with people in the street, in the neighborhood, and all over the city, they waited for the next shock; but Ted didn’t see a fire, while he waited.   He saw now that there hadn’t been a fire, figured it had to have been a candle, lit by their neighbor, just as the shaking began and the electricity went off.   He tugged at his nose, hard, as though he was getting rid of snot.   He hadn’t been prepared for an evening like this; even without the earthquake it would’ve been hard.   Lately, she had been hammering him; so far he hadn’t hammered back.   Hearing her say, “You know you’ve given up your country” really bugged him.

      “You know you’ve given up your country” you know was a cheap shot.   When a man is tormented by a decision like Ted was, boxed-in by it, he has to find someway to break out.   Ted wanted to lash out and blame his government, rage against it, which he’d been doing, and it hadn’t helped.   Ted was shaking his head.   He began to talk gibberish and pop his bottom lip.   “Am I going crazy?” he wondered.  For the first time Susan looked at him.   She said, “We’re not dead yet.”   Ted repeated, “Hindi aco patay.”   She said, “What’s that?”   He replied, “‘It means I’m not dead yet.’   It’s the name of the play Alfred is doing in the dungeon.”   And then she said, “We’re standing out in the middle of the street like this, a busy street, Taft Boulevard, and this happens.   Our apartment could’ve burned down.   The whole the neighbor with it.   There will be deaths or I’m imagining all of this.   They chase us out of our apartment and you’re in your boxers.   He’s in his boxers, oh God, we’re in for trouble.   And you’re talking about a play, go figure”

      On their way back inside Susan said to Ted, “I’ve never been through anything like this.   I was glad you were with me.   I’m glad you grabbed my hand.  By the way I forgave you a long time ago.   But Borneo…I don’t know if I would want to walk across Borneo.”

      He said, “This has been something, some night, holy shit, hasn’t it been?   Not the earthquake part so much.   That was kind of exciting.   My first thought was that you were shaking the bed, stop that shaking! but we weren’t making love.”

        Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- from “they had served in the Peace Corp because they wanted to do something for their country” to stateless gypsy hippies

      Her family had a wind-swept, cactus-covered piece of dirt, a little under an acre outside the west-Texas, oil-boom town of Midland.   She hated the desolation, the isolation of the place.   They were things she couldn’t do anything about.   She loved seeing girl friends, at school, and before and after school on the bus, talking, being silly, all of the giggles on the surface and all the tears inside that clearly indicated that her life was far from perfect.   She loved collecting wildflowers and the whole process of pressing them and preserving them and found great joy in learning the names of them.   The thought of someday capitalizing on this joy never occurred to her; even thinking about the future was something she avoided.   That was why her decision to go away to college when she could’ve stayed in the area surprised everyone.   Her parents were caught off guard and panicked.

      She had been after a man for sometime and had told her mother she would find herself a tall, dark, and handsome oil-man, without realizing her hometown was the best place in the world for that.   She obviously wasn’t paying attention; she wasn’t sure about anything.   Her father was an oil geologist, an oil-man.   She felt more at ease around him than anyone else, mostly because he adored her.   She looked for someone like him, when she went looking on campus, and she found someone the opposite of him.   Ted said he adored her; but at this stage flattery had become part of his game.

      After their marriage they moved into a small apartment near the theater where Ted worked.   She found herself with nothing to do most of the time; she didn’t know how to do something on her own; Ted had the theater and didn’t have much time left over for her.   For a while she read all the time.   She would read and would wait up for Ted; and when he came home exhausted, he would promptly turn in.   It was a small one-bed-room apartment, located near a city park.   It was about a block away.   It frequently filled up with strange men; it attracted every day its share of homeless people or people who looked down and out.   It was summer, hot most of the time; the heat got on Susan’s nerves.   They had only a small fan.   Just after they moved in, no more than a month or two, something happened that scared her to death, and she insisted that they move immediately.   On one of those nights that she found herself alone, reading a book and waiting for Ted, she smelled cigarette smoke coming from just outside her window.   She had kept the window cracked to catch what little breeze there was.   That was when she started wishing that she still lived at home where she knew her father would protect her.   Ted still had to be at the theater every night, and there were times when he did worried about her.   He still had his career to think of.   He quickly moved her to another apartment and that helped.   He was like that, always willing and able to pick up and go.   And almost every time, Susan resisted; in some situations, however, as in her choosing the college she chose she surprised everyone.

      Living with Ted forced her to become more flexible; almost from their first date, he influenced her greatly.   He had broadened her interests.   But she got tired of staying at home; that alone made a difference.   One night he came home after a long technical rehearsal and found her sitting up in a chair with printed information about the Peace Corps, something he wouldn’t have come up with.   The idea was frightening to Susan; she overcame her fear enough to act on it anyway.   Now she had to face something equally daunting and knew it wouldn’t be easy.   It had been over two years since she had seen her family; time wouldn’t wait for her; and it didn’t look as if she would get to see them anytime soon.   But then she didn’t want Ted to end up in Vietnam.   His receiving his draft notice shook her up.   That was why, in spite of not wanting to make the trip to Olangapo, she went with him anyway.

      For years she had told people that she hated the ranchette she knew as a child, where wide-open spaces allowed the wind to blow all the time.   She wanted to go home now, except she was going to go on a plane with her husband to Singapore and, from there, who knew where?   It was a bum deal; things were now more uncertain than they had ever been.   And the strange thing was that it seemed to her as if she had asked for it.

      This was what Susan was thinking as she finished packing the two trucks that held all of their possessions.   Yes, she had asked for it, in a way.   Indeed, she had come a long way.   It all seemed to be part of someone else’s life, so to speak, as though her time in the Peace Corps belonged to someone else.   And by so distancing herself she could face the prospect of not going home immediately, and once she got over that hurdle, with a few tears, she coped pretty well.   She kept herself busy, as busy as Ted.   She had never exhausted herself as much.   And thinking of all the people she still had to say goodbye to, and being pressed into a lunch here and party there, she didn’t have much time to think, much less think about Midland, and for the first time found herself a little excited about a move.

      Ted had put on his explorer cap by then.   Exciting pictures of him and Susan traipsing across Borneo played in his head.   With him leading, since she always let him lead, he charted their future travels and imagined going places he had never thought they would go.   It all worried Susan, while it delighted Ted.   He would tell her, “We’ll be okay.”   And she would say, “Sure.   Sure Ted, we’ve made it so for.”   Or she would say, “I suppose you’re right.”   Or, “It’s better than the alternative.”   And it was hard for her, hard for her to overcome having been squashed as a child, hard for her to bring herself up, and it wasn’t easy for her to replace her pessimism and exchange it for her husband’s optimism; most of all she wished her father hadn’t been so overly protective.

      The time flew.   Even after living more than three years with him, Susan felt uncomfortable with her husband’s eagerness.   At the same time she resisted less, and with their departure date quickly approaching, she felt more and more like a stateless gypsy hippie.

      Susan said to Ted one day when she got his attention, “You know you’ve given up your country.   You know that, don’t you.”

      He said, “It feels like shit, shit really.   That’s what it feels like.”

      She said, “You can’t talk yourself out of it, Ted?”

      He said, “I wish I had more wiggle room.   That I was a bit older.”

      “We shouldn’t do this, Ted.   I thought we’d be safe in the Peace Corps.”

     He said, “You don’t have to go with me, Susan.”

     “Oh, yes I do.   Get that thought out of your head.”

      And later he thought that perhaps he should give in.   He did owe his country “everything.”

     The next day she said, “You know Nixon is a son-of-a-bitch, don’t you?”

      He didn’t believe she would say that.   Did she really blame Nixon for the war, or did she mean Nixon really was a son-of-a-bitch?”

      She said, “You can be so detached.   You know what I mean.   It scares me.”

     And later, she said, “My father wouldn’t allow me to leave the property.   Have I told you that.”

     “No, I’ve not heard that.”

      “A part of me would like for you to take care of me like he did.   If you agree, you’d have to change.   But I know that wouldn’t be you.   You’re not likely to change, and I know it.   I just would like for you to have some idea of where we’re going, and where we’ll end up.   I keep hoping I’ll see Midland again, though I hated the place.”

      After she said that, he felt drawn to her; and it made him question his judgement.   Was his judgement faulty?   No, he didn’t think so.   And for once they had made a joint decision.   She had not only agreed but had fully participated in the process, which amazed her.

      They had served in the Peace Corp because they wanted to do something for their country.

      Susan said, “We mustn’t forget our country and that we’re Americans.   I know normally that you wouldn’t express this.   You’re not a flag waver.   But you would try, try your damnedest, and keep on trying to make it right when you thought your country was wrong.   I know that much about you.   Maybe you don’t want to die for an unjust cause, but that doesn’t mean you won’t fight for your country in your own way.   Now you didn’t hear me say all this”

      Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- running from the war

      Ted and Susan took a bus to Olangapo.   What was to have been a quick trip for Ted to Subic turned into a short vacation for both them, with an over-night stay in a parked bus in middle of nowhere.   Straight and hard-back seats, cracked from the sun, didn’t make for a comfortable night.   The single two-lane highways kept the driver on his toes; the driver and the conductor alternated turns at the wheel, as they laid on the horn every time a rooster or some other critter got in the way.   The countryside was lush and green.   The towns were gritty.   Some of that grit had blown in off the volcano; the bigger towns, of course, had paved streets.   There was the fresh smell of the sea, as they left the mountains and entered the flood plain that meant they were approaching Olangapo; and when they got there Ted kept his window open to let the sights and sounds of the city in.  He had brought all of his paperwork from his draft board with him.   He would need it to get on Subic, and without it he would be out of luck.

      The long bus ride had been tense.   Susan’s tenseness matched Ted’s own.   So much depended on this trip…not just thinking in terms of the next few weeks, but about the awful decision that had to be made either way, and time was running out, and if Ted passed his physical; was there anyway he wouldn’t pass it; he surely would pass it, and then…what then…and poor Susan, and Susan hated to think about it, think about how she would endure the absence of her Ted, the waiting and not knowing, the apprehension and the strain.   During the long bus ride all this came crashing in, and she asked herself ‘where will we be?’ come…   And Ted was thinking how easily it could make her a widow.

      They heard rock-and-roll.   At first Susan wasn’t sure what she thought about it, but then she generally liked rock-and-roll, particularly Buddy Holly.   They got off the bus and look down the main drag of Olangapo with all the bars on both sides of the street.   Ha!   It was more than Susan could stand; one of the moments of her life that she would always remember, as she watched ladies with drinks come out the bars with men.   When she then looked at Ted, he gave her wink.   That confirmed what she feared: it stunk.

      They found the bus station, without finding their way to Subic.   They went through the rather large waiting room, with individual chairs lined up in neat rows, and nervously approached the ticket counter.   They were finished with Olangapo and wouldn’t go back.   As they stood in line, Ted said to Susan, “Let’s go to Baguio.”   Susan didn’t know how the courage came to her to tell her husband that she didn’t appreciate his wink; but that wink and seeing Olangapo settled the matter for her.   She said, “Yes, why not skip the physical.   Baguio should be nice.”   Ted loved her for supporting him.   He put his arm around her, as they stood there, and he thought with sadness…and perhaps some fear…of his dad, who would’ve been against him dodging the draft.

      They began then to rearrange their lives around flying to Singapore, and they ignored the implications.   Susan was amazed at herself, amazed at how brave she had been.   The memory of them standing there in the middle of Main Street Olangapo would mark for her a turning point.   Thank goodness she had gone with Ted.   The wink became less of a deal as time went on.   He winked in jest and she knew that, but she had been nervous for Ted because she could imagine what the stresses of war might do to him.   She didn’t know what would happen now but together she felt sure that they could survive most anything; it helped that they had survived a hurricane.   (Before they got out of the Philippines, they would add an earthquake to a growing list of calamities, a list that gave them strength.)   This particular crisis was the first big one of their marriage, but she had been more nervous for Ted than she had been for herself because he was the one who was set to go to war.   After they were back on the bus and well on their way to Baguio, Susan said, “Honey, I have a confession to make.”   She paused; Ted waited.   “Honey, I don’t trust you.”   Trust was sacred to her; she was admitting to herself that she had let herself down, as she pictured Ted sleeping with a girl from a bar.   She frowned, glad she had said what she had, glad Ted didn’t respond given that he had his head hanging out the bus window; but she was not pleased with herself.   She said in a sardonic way, “Aren’t the mountains just beautiful.”   Ted should’ve been listening, but he continued to hang his head out the window, and said, “Perhaps, at this rate, we’ll get to Baguio before dark.”   They had never been to Baguio before.   Yet he had an idea of what they would do even if they got there late.   Maybe two or three ideas.   And that, people, was how he planned to spend the rest of his life.   That was it.   And he didn’t need to explain it.   He would say to Susan, “How dare you complain.   I came close to being shipped off.   Thank goodness you were with me and not against me.   You’ve stood by me.   You willingly gave up so much.   How lucky we are and compared to most people…most people?   That’s going a bit far.   If I were like my dad, I would’ve whip some ass in Vietnam.”   The episode strengthened their relationship, but it could’ve gone totally wrong.   Hindi aco patay! “I’m not dead yet,” he yelled it out the bus window.   To be alive was everything.   If he had gone, he could’ve been killed.   What then?   But in his father’s opinion, it stunk; to him it was if his son had given the finger to all those men and women who went over and came back tired of all the crap back home.

      On their return to Manila, that was how it looked to Ted.   Yet he felt better, and whenever he met someone he had to deal with during those last few weeks people were greeted with a smile, and the smiling helped him.

      They soon discovered that they couldn’t get plane reservations on the day they wanted due to the planned arrival of the Pope, so they delayed their departure for a week.   The delay suited Susan; it gave her more time to say goodbye to everyone.   Ted slowed down, took small steps, at times imperceptible steps, often turning up where he was least expected, at a cast party maybe, with a bottle of wine and well wishes for everyone.   In fact he spent more time at the fort than he ever had before.   All Nick had to do to find him was to go to the fort.   Ted went from place to place, friend to friend, telling everyone that he was one of those people who never looked back.

      Susan blamed Ted for packing too soon.   Anything they couldn’t get into their two trunks they had to give away.   They did that with their puppy, and Susan felt sad about that.   Ted was more hard nosed, of course; his father was that way too, born with the same genes: who would’ve guessed?   A party for Susan’s godchild had to be attended; and it seemed all too apparent that the child’s parents were looking for a return.   Linda was just as shy as she always had been; she had always been a conscientious maid, taking care of all the shopping, the cooking, the cleaning, and the washing.   She never said what she would do with her future; at that point she probably didn’t know.   For months they had tried to be extra kind to her.   They took her with them on a vacation.   They went to Boac together.   They said, “Linda, you can do more with your life than be a maid.   You have the world going for you.   You could go back to school.”   Only then did she tell them that she planned to get married, and when they got back from Baguio…forgetting the fact that they were heading for Olangapo…she announced that she had a new husband and had gotten married while they were away.   She seemed very happy.

Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- Peace Corps, the draft, the war, and R & R in Manila

      Before they could leave the Philippines there were official things they had to do for the Peace Corps.   The Peace Corps was in Ermita and on Jorge Bacobo Street.   It was easy to find; but most people couldn’t find it.   It was an old two-story house, and no different from other houses on the street.   Obviously it had been a residence and had served that purpose for a very long time; but now it housed the Peace Corps.   On the ground floor was a reception area, a lounge with a kitchen, and, most importantly, a clinic.   Whenever they had to see a doctor Susan and Ted had come here, but otherwise they had avoided the offices; the outer offices and the inner sanctum of the director whom they were required to see before they could leave.

      Their first stop was downstairs at the clinic.   They had never been so thoroughly checked over.   The clean white walls, freshly painted and scrubbed, gave one confidence that he or she would receive the very best care.   The shutters, folded-in when they were open, allowed in a cool breeze.   In a prominent place, hanging on a wall, there was a framed photograph of President Nixon.   His was the only photograph, official looking and signed…a head-shot, glossy, with Richard M. Nixon engraved across the bottom…suggesting that he ran place which wasn’t far from the truth; but somehow, perhaps because of Ted’s loss of confidence in his government; he associated scorn with the photograph.   He, though, hadn’t forgotten the glory of past wars.   It was this war he would avoid and it called for desperate action once he and Susan made the decision, so painful that he didn’t like thinking about it.   It was not just the war anymore; it was also about what his country stood for, and to have learned it from his Maoist friends, he had the Peace Corps to think for that.   It was a time for reflection, and it all came down to not wanting to die, as he put it, in an unjust war.   That was what all the big rush was about.

      So unexpectedly they found themselves standing in front of the director.   Ted had been thinking about what his father would do in his shoes, trying to find some justification for what he was about to do, the option clear enough, the one option out of two, and one that had been taken before by many men, a reaction to the strange and unfair idea of being drafted from the Peace Corps, the very idea, how dare Nixon…though it had never been fair for those who hadn’t received a deferment for whatever reason, an excuse or something that would keep them out of Nam.   It was like being driven into exile.   A lifetime in exchange for a year, if you survived it: Clark Air Force Base, Cavite, or Olongapo, his draft board had given him a choice; yes, a choice that really wasn’t a choice for him; but here, in the Peace Corps clinic, they declared him perfectly healthy.

      There would’ve been more than twenty-five men standing in line.   Many of them would’ve been Filipino, and Ted doubted that any of them really knew what they were getting into.   The world was quickly closing in around him; Ted didn’t think unfortunately that he would have any trouble passing the psychological part of the examination, in spite of all of his bias and prejudices; but the tests were all easy, simple for him and even enjoyable, not as difficult as a college midterm.   He would tell them what he thought of the war.   He wished the tests weren’t so easy, but of course he had taken those tests before.

     And all this time he was thinking about refusing to go…if he were back home, he would be thinking seriously about Canada.   He hadn’t talked it over with Susan yet.   He hadn’t seen enough of her recently for that, and anyway he wasn’t going let her make the decision.   It seemed to him awfully unfair, a cruel joke in fact, after joining the Peace Corps, then to have them come after him: what was his draft board thinking?   But he didn’t want to seem unpatriotic.   He knew nothing about the Army and had worked very hard to avoid that crap.   He thought it was better, made more sense for him, to get his education.   And year after year, he had gotten a deferment.   He went to college, graduate school, studied hard, and joined the Peace Corps.   He thought again that that should’ve been enough.   He was serving his country.   Not as some dumb-ass grunt, but helping create something special: a national theater, no less.   And at the same time he was afraid.   He could hardly answer a single question on the test.   They promised to send him to Germany.   Should he chance it?

      He said, “Honey, this came in the mail today.”   She said, “Well, open it.”   So he, poor guy, was told to report for his physical.   He said, “I don’t want to do this.”   She said, “What choice do you have?’   He said, “I need to talk to a lawyer.   Any lawyer.”   She had always been the realistic one.   “A lawyer won’t do you any good.   A lawyer is going to tell you to go do it.”   He said, “I’ll think about it.   Which shall it be?   Clark, Cavite, or Olongapo?”   She said, “I’d take Olongapo.   You’ve been to Clark.”   And then with a smile, “Which has the prettiest bar-girls?   Seriously, my husband will go to Olongapo and along the way he’ll be decide our future.   Ask him for me what I’m afraid to ask.   Will it be Vietnam?   I’ll stay home and he’ll call me long distance.   And along the way I could have a baby.”   He said, “Unfortunately, that’s been tried before and didn’t work.   I still think a lawyer is our best bet.   I know the Peace Corps has its own lawyer just for this.”

      The first thing Monday morning Ted took off on his own to see the Peace Corps lawyer.   He hadn’t worked out a plan yet, but was ready to hear the worse.   He simply said, “I’ve got to know.”   Susan said, when she found out, “I’m glad to see you’re not sitting on your ass waiting for them to come after you.”

      Ted’s best friend in high school was sent to Vietnam.   He had made up his mind that he wouldn’t wait to be drafted.   That was really all Ted knew.   Manila was one of the places servicemen in Vietnam liked to go for R & R, which always reminded Ted of his best friend in high school.   Manila wasn’t their favorite place for R & R by a long shot; Bangkok was; but Mabini Street was cool.   Mabini Street was a place where they could go shopping, and shopping for married men sometimes seemed more appetizing than bar-hopping.   It was a very long street, filled with bargains, not as good for bargain hunting as Hong Kong, but almost; and it was because of the bargains that married men flocked there.   It was because married servicemen went there that Ted started looking there for his very best friend in high school.   Higher-ups who designated Manila, as a place to go for R & R, must’ve have had Mabini Street in mind.   Some servicemen on R & R said Mabini Street was a good place to save money; the more you spent the more you saved, that sort of thing; and Ted thought that that was how his best friend would think.   Servicemen on R & R had money to burn; and no one knew it better than some Filipinas.   Some Filipinos said that it was servicemen on R & R who corrupted Filipinas, coming from Vietnam, horny and all; and as servicemen kept coming, Ted spent more of his time on Mabini Street, lookin’.. .  But he didn’t know he could pick up the telephone and call his friend in Vietnam.   He didn’t know war had progressed that far.   And now, more than ever, after receiving his draft notice, Ted wanted to track down his very best friend and find out first hand how much fun a trip to Vietnam would be.

   Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- hating to leave their Philippines

      Without warning, Linda was told she wouldn’t have a job.   The news saddened her, her job as a maid had given her certain creature comforts that she wouldn’t otherwise have had, and she found herself with time off to look for something else.   Susan and Ted weren’t thinking as much of her as fretting over the move.   Yes, they were busy and harried, but who wouldn’t have been given the circumstances.

      Ted’s leaving caught everyone off guard and disappointed them.   Add that to Nick’s sadness over the sudden departure of Elaine, and you have a pretty unhappy guy.   And Sonja had counted on him helping Alfred with Hindi Aco Patay; the revival now scheduled for the dungeons.   Even Susan, in a lament for lost security, said with all sincerity that she hated to leave, but she agreed with Ted that it had become a necessity.

      Soon enough they got around to telling Don.   Don hadn’t been around.   The story was that he had found himself another Filipina friend and that she had provided him with an alternative place to crash.   Somehow you’d think they’d tell Don that they decided to leave the Peace Corps, but they hadn’t clued him in.   They didn’t plan to return to the States right away.   They were going to fly to Singapore, and from there see.   Susan said, “Ted talks about seeing the world.   But I’m not so sure I’ve lost anything in any of those places he talks about.   I could go home and live happily ever after.   But we can’t now.   I wish we could, but we can’t.”

      There was a special banquet catered for Ted at the fort, to say goodbye and to present him with a plaque.   There was in attendance all of the people with whom he had worked in the theater; for that one night he was the center of attention and basked in it.   He was leaving the Peace Corps, with mixed feelings, he didn’t want to go but he felt he had to.   His mind, however, was on something else; he seemed distant and very much removed.   At the same time the appreciation shown to him was genuine and warm; it was a memory he would take with him.

      Alfred, sitting between Sonja and Susan, speaking to Susan, said in her ear, “Can’t you talk him out of it?   His timing is bad.   It couldn’t be a worse time.   I’ll give his show back.”   But Ted, who two weeks before had every intention of serving out his commitments in the Philippines paid no attention to the pleas, pleas from practically everyone, pleading with him and Susan to stay.   Sonja made a long speech.   Ted would be missed; they had counted on him, but Sonja was gracious enough not to mention that.   She seemed to understand that she couldn’t control everything.   She handed Ted his plaque and shook his hand (for a photo), something she hadn’t done before.   She, in fact, held his hand, as she announced that she had a little surprise for Ted and invited Del Roy Valencia to step forward.   It was at the beginning of the end of the evening, and the Certificate of Appreciation from Amelda would be one more thing Ted would have to ship home, since he definitely wanted to keep it.   But by the next morning it didn’t mean that much to him.   There were memories and photographs.   The year and three quarters had gone by fast, and Ted and Susan, seasoned and toughened, Americans and soon to become expatriates and half a world away from home, as soon be travelers, packed and ready, finally could reminiscent about the time they spent in Manila.

      It was only after they had removed everything from their apartment that they came face to face with the reality that they soon would be on their own.   The first thing they would have to come to gripes with…money: the money the Peace Corps had set aside for them wouldn’t last forever…Ted, unperturbed by that; they obviously would have to find work.   The second thing that they had to worry about was that they wouldn’t have the Peace Corps to rely on, the U.S. Government or anyone else.   What would happen to them if they became seriously ill or injured?   Ted felt absolutely certain that they could find the help they needed when they needed it and that otherwise they could take care of themselves, but as a practical woman, Susan wasn’t so sure.   Bravery comes to us in different ways; experience changes us; and Ted knew that they would always make it.   For him, doubts went away as soon as he started moving.   His obsession with seeing the world might have been fantasy; but they had enough resources to get them to Bangkok, where they had heard they could teach English as a second language.

      Alfred met them a few days later at their favorite Cantonese restaurant on Mabini Street.   It was a special occasion, though quiet and subdued, during which the three of them put up a brave front.   It was an open secret that Alfred had joined the Mormon Church and would serve his time as a missionary in Hawaii.   Talking about this gave Ted and Susan an opportunity to share with him their experiences on the Big Island during Peace Corps training.   And while there was a time when Alfred had nothing good to say about America, now (reversing himself) he said he couldn’t wait to go and wished they could meet him there.   He said he felt sure that they could show him parts of Hawaii that he would otherwise miss.

      Eventually they had to do something with the puppy Alfred gave them; Linda said she would take care of him for them.

Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- harsh on Marcos and hard on everyone

     She was harsh on Marcos.   A week into her hunger strike she had attracted his attention, causing him to examine Nick’s case; and to avoid seeming weak, the president didn’t give in to the pressure.   Instead he had Nick placed in solitary confinement, and it seemed as if he’d been sentenced for life.   Even as Elaine weakened and at the same time gained more and more notoriety, Marcos knew enough to ignore her.   Let her starve while we eat cake.   She had her supporters, but she didn’t know how much support until she almost died.   It didn’t take long for her to see that she was causing quite a stir (with Ted donating his Katipunan flag (with big K), there was also symbolism involved that didn’t escape those who knew their history; student activists, professors, and of course Susan and Ted.)   And the longer Elaine lay there withering away on her cot the more embarrassing it became for Marcos and his cronies.

      Linda was talking about it before Susan and Ted knew whom she was talking about.   In her tiny weak voice Elaine liked to say it would make her father proud of her.   He would be on her side and he would have to appear to be against her.   She thought it gave her more leverage over him than she ever had before.   She knew he would find out, and it would only be a matter of time before he got involved.   Her father, now working in the Pentagon, had graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis and would have the influence and pull to end her hunger strike.   He decided when he was quite young that he would lead men.   He was good with people; he learned how to manage them; he knew how to work the system.   He rose quickly to naval heights, but the one person he couldn’t control was his daughter.   As Commander of the Cavite Naval Station and when Elaine had lived under his roof, he had tried to control her.   When he met Nick (and before he knew his affiliation with the Radicals) he had liked him; afterwards and in spite of all the embarrassment and after his career was hurt, he would tell people he respected Nick for “standing up” to Marcos.

      And Nick felt sorry that Elaine’s father was unfortunately a target and had lost out (though the Pentagon job wasn’t a demotion) when he could’ve chosen someone else for a girlfriend.   He wondered how he could ever fit into that family.   Nick had gotten his marching orders when he went to China and would never renounce that; it would take some kind of miracle then for Elaine’s father to accept him.   Elaine said, “My father is a very forgiving man.”   Now Nick had all the time in the world to think, cool his heels in solitary confinement and think.   Nick had never said anything bad about Elaine’s family.   He had only seen them once or twice; Forbes Park made him feel uncomfortable, to him the compound and the armed gate had much the same feel as the outside of Camp Aguinaldo.   He supposed that if times had been different he would’ve been on track for becoming head of the department and even dean and would’ve one day owned a home, and perhaps even own a house in Forbes Park.

      Nick wouldn’t know what was going on.   He had stopped thinking about getting out alive.   And when the day of his release came all the support he received and the sacrifices that were made for him humbled him.   He was still defiant, though.   He said, “I never would’ve thought Elaine would’ve attempted to starve herself for me, Ted.   It’s going to take a lot for me to repay her.   We’re going to have to figure out how we can stay together.   We can’t continue to live in sin.”   Ted knew by then that it wouldn’t work out for Nick and Elaine.   So he had to tell him, though he hated to be a bearer of bad news.   He said, “Elaine’s father flew in from the States.   Elaine was still camped outside of Camp Aguinaldo.   They had a very long conversation, and they came to an agreement.   So Elaine’s father used his influence to get you out.   Now you’re free.”

     A few weeks later Elaine was a plane to San Francisco and then flew on to D.C.   After that Nick would get little in the way of news from her.   It was only later, some years after the First Quarter Storm, that he was able to justify a trip for himself to the States; and he finally knocked on her door, only to find out that she was married.   During all of that time he remained true to himself; and he never stopped fighting.   So the fight went on, the brutalities and the violence.   But Nick always regretted that he let Elaine go.

      Don found he had less and less energy for the things he needed to do.   Some of his listlessness came from how he viewed himself, but it mainly came from avoidance.   In Zamboanga he had been far enough away from Manila and the office for him to get away with that.   Over time, then, it seemed as if higher-ups forgot about him.   So when he got to Manila he didn’t need to report in.   They sent for him and knew he knew what he was supposed to do.   But did they really need him?   They also lived in Manila, knew what was going on and read the papers, both the Manila Times and the Free Press, so they could’ve done without him.   Good thing his job wasn’t based on performance.   As for job satisfaction, it didn’t feel like work.   He said to Ted, “You didn’t hear this from me.”   And then after a long pause, he added, “I don’t know what I’m doing here.”   Before he could say and often said, “I’m here to teach.”

Randy Ford

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