Sunday, August 19, 2012

Berowne's 131

(For Three-Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "F" is for "Furious")
The end of World War II brought about one of the largest population movements in history.
Many thousands of people who had escaped from the Nazi genocide, who had somehow lived through the conflict, found they were facing a new tyranny, Soviet style.

Needless to say, many tried to come to the United States. For them, it must have seemed that the years of drought would soon be over; they would be in the land of plenty. Those who had family here, relatives who would help them, received preference.

I remember those days when shiploads of refugees arrived in New York. In the months after the war’s end you would often see worried-looking folks wandering about the city, each carrying a worn valise or satchel; they usually had a little note pinned to their lapels. The note gave their destination and asked passersby to be of help.
All of which brings me to my train trip at thst time up from Baltimore, where my ship was docked.
On the train, seated across the aisle from me, was a gentleman who was obviously one of those refugees; he had the requisite note on his lapel.
In a spasm of Good Samaritanism I welcomed him to America and asked if I could be of help. I know a couple of words in a number of languages, but he understood none of them. (He must have been from Southeastern Baluchistan or some such place.)
His note read that he was going to his brother-in-law’s, who lived in New York; please help. Fine! I said to him, accompanying my remarks with gestures and appropriate facial expressions, I too am going to New York! I’ll see you get there all right!
He gave a sort of half-smile, as though he understood this odd person was trying to be of help.
We cruised up the coast of New Jersey, with as much comfort and amusement as the Penn Railroad of that day could provide. My friend across the aisle looked worried each time we stopped – Elizabeth, Perth Amboy – but I would assure him no, this is not New York. Pas encore, noch nicht, not yet!
He seemed to understand, but still looked worried.
As anyone who has made this trip knows, there is one last stop, Newark, before the train takes a deep breath and plunges under the Hudson to come up in the Big Apple.
As we pulled into the Newark station, the conductor opened the door and shouted the name of the stop as loudly as he was able. Unfortunately, he shouted “New – ARK!”
To anyone from Southeastern Baluchistan, or almost any other foreign land, it would probably have sounded like a guy announcing our arrival in New York. My friend got up and headed for the door. I grabbed his arm: No! This is not New York! No New York! Not!
Now he really looked worried. He sat back down, but eyed me with great suspicion. I seemed to be sincere, but perhaps he had been told about sharpies in America and how they would try to trick you.
The train waited for a few minutes in the station. Then, just before it started up again, the conductor stuck his head in again and repeated, in his operatic fashion, “New – ARK!”
My refugee was now furious; he excitedly shot me a glance of pure hatred, ran for the door and managed to get off just as the train kicked into gear.
I often wondered what happened to my friend, arriving in New Jersey completely confused, speaking no English and knowing no one. But hey, America is the land of opportunity, right?
It’s quite possible he wound up, years later, as the owner of the biggest night club in Hoboken. :-)
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings.)

42 comments:

Tess Kincaid said...

I love your stories, Mr. B.

Kathe W. said...

oh yikes-poor fellow. He most likely realized not much later that you truly were helping him.
Hopefully he made it over the Hudson!

zongrik said...

i like how the pic evoked this whole memory. interesting that you'd think he'd own a nightclub

under windsor bridge senryu

Rene Foran said...

What a story. I wonder what became of him?

Berowne said...

Tess K: "I love your stories, Mr. B."
Nothing better than an encouraging comment from Tess K. Thanks.

Margaret said...

What an amazing story. I feel for the man

joanne said...

This is an amazing and amusing story.....truly enjoyable

Mama Zen said...

This is hilarious!

Irish Gumbo said...

You have quite the gift for life vignettes. Fascinating story. I smiled to see Baltimore mentioned, as I lived near there for most of the last 23 years. Good stuff!

Roger Owen Green said...

This reminded me of a train ride I took to Charlotte, NC and there was some confusion someone had with Charlottesvile, VA...

gautami tripathy said...

You write great stuff. Always!

dregs

Berowne said...

Mama Zen: "This is hilarious!"
Glad to hear it; thanks.

Berowne said...

Gautami T: "You write great stuff. Always."
Wonderful comment. My sincere thanks.

izzy said...

Thanks for trying- people do have to follow their guts!

Linda said...

You have to wonder about the granting of the place name of "Newark" being so close to "New York" both in location and the way it's pronounced. The city fathers who provide the names must have had a clue that it would be confusing, but let it happen anyway. I feel bad for the poor fellow and I hope he found his way. I love your stories, Berowne. Thanks so much. =D

Little Nell said...

You spin a wonderful yarn Berowne.

Helen said...

Another great story ... I'm betting on the nightclub! Frankie Boy style.

Berowne said...

Little N: "You spin a wonderful yarn, Berowne."
Thanks Little N.
I don't feel dull,
I don't feel hollow.
I found myself
In your "Blogs I Follow." :-)

Sue said...

You never disappoint.

=)

Berowne said...

What a great comment, Sue; thanks.

Anonymous said...

Great story.I wonder where he did end up.

Kutamun said...

Some parallel universes here , Berowne , another great story from your life stable . In Australia, we would call him a queue jumper and imprison him on a tropical island for a few years, until he can rattle off the winner of the 1932 Melbourne Cup in flawless strine !

Berowne said...

Ah, reminds me of the time I spent down your way, trying to learn how to speak flawless strine.
I wasn't all that successful, sorry to say. :-)

Christine said...

My father immigrated from Russia, I'd imagine the confusion in a new land, felt somewhat like this.

jabblog said...

Wonderful story but how frightening to be abroad in a country where the language is so different. I hope he found his way.

Carver said...

What a great story. I know that must have been frustrating trying to help him and knowing he was making a mistake. Carver, ABC-Wed-Team

˙·٠•●❤Sh@KiR@ ❤●•٠·˙ said...

Such an awesome story. Thank you so much for sharing. Great job!
Mine is here
Have you a ROCKING AND WEEK!!!
hugs
shakira

mrsnesbitt said...

Wow! Fascinating story! Had me hooked - not the ending I was expecting.
Denise ABC Team

The Bug said...

Personally I probably would have preferred New Jersey to NYC - but maybe not without the language :)

Berowne said...

"Wow! Fascinating story! Had me hooked."
What a generous comment from Mrs. N - thanks so much.

dandeliongirl01 said...

I'm sure he was kicking himself afterwards. You can but try, but if they don't want help you can't do a lot about it. I do enjoy your stories :)

Nicholas V. said...

Great take on this prompt!

jaerose said...

Not quite New York..but then if you don't know the difference who's to tell..great write..as ever..Jae

Ellecee said...

I really enjoyed this story - you couldn't wrestle him to the ground or anything - that wouldn't have seemed sporting either. Good stuff.

Berowne said...

Nicholas V: "Great take on this prompt!"
Thanks for your very welcome comment, Nick V.

Sheilagh Lee said...

you tried sometimes that's all you can do. Poor fellow hopefully someone helped him find where he had to go.

Tumblewords: said...

Fascinating tale!

Sharp Little Pencil said...

Berowne, your take on "drought" was so original! I can imagine, as a person who has dwelt in Puerto Rico, how confused that person must have been. The last line about the club in Hoboken, hee hee, like Mike Romanoff... Amy
http://sharplittlepencil.com/2012/08/22/diva-heart-in-denial-whirl-trifecta/

kaykuala said...

Your style is unique, Berowne. It's always something different that catch our attention. For all you know he may be a successful developer or heading a corporation in Newark.

Hank

Berowne said...

kaykuala: "Your style is unique, Berowne."
What a comment! Thanks...

RMP said...

wow! Poor guy; or as you hypothesis, maybe not. Quite an interesting trip that must have been--even more so for him.

gautami tripathy said...

Great story..!!


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