Case Devries, a cadet midshipman at the US Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point NY, is earning some beer money in Eugene Stein's textile warehouse on Saturday afternoons. Rosanne, Eugene's sexy little Italian secretary, picks him up from the Academy gate and drops him off each Saturday, and this leads to the inevitable - a relationship doomed to fail. Or does it? It is in any case it is the upbeat to an adventure that eventually takes Case and his buddy Brian O'Malley years later from their home away from home - the Seamen's Church Institute, otherwise known as "the Doghouse", to India by way of a speck in the Ocean called Eniwetok, and from there to the ship graveyards in Kaoshiung with a ramshackle rust bucket of a freighter called the S.S. Flower Power. Aptly named for the era in which this adventure takes place and even more so the termination of the era as the Flower Power meets its final destination at the close of the sixties. The motley crew manning the good ship Flower Power couldn't have been more colorful had they been hand-picked by a madman. They range from the utterly chaotic captain Peachfuzz, to the straight-laced day-man George the Marine or the forty-five year old three hundred pound John Aruda, an able bodied seaman and a flower child who rises to every occasion . Such as organizing the marriage of George the Marine and his Filipino bride on the high seas with Peachfuzz having been bribed to perform the ceremony in order to legalize the stowaway bride brought aboard in Manila with the help of just about the entire crew.
And then there is the mysterious container stowed aboard and buried underneath the load of chemical fertilizer they are carrying to India. What is in it, and is it true what Case learned in Eniwetok about its contents and origin? The contents of the container and the wheeling and dealing around its getting back to where it belongs eventually brings Case back into contact with Eugene and Rosanne; the two people he least expected to cross his path again. But after all was said and done it no longer surprised Case that things went the way they did - it was all meant to be this way and it all happened because it had to happen; it was in the cards and even if events are separated by years, it all makes sense in the end. He was the catalyst to start the series of events rectifying an anomaly in this particular space-time continuum; a messenger, a tool of convenience to make the pieces of the puzzle fall into their proper place.
But prior to this philosophical note, A Doghouse Tale is the hilarious story of a motley crew sailing a ship held together by baling wire, paint and a prayer. It touches on the deplorable condition of the U.S. Merchant Marine in the sixties of the twentieth century, when a nation at war which should be able to rely on the best material for the massive logistic operations that all wars require, but in fact presses old battle wagons such as the Flower Power into service, making it the laughing stock of the maritime world. It is also a moving story in that it shows that when the chips are down, no matter what background or grudges the individual crew members may have towards one another, they band together as one to come to the aid of a shipmate.
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Bangkok Book House
December 14, 2010
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