Home from Vietnam, feeling confused and out of place, a young Marine connects with a merchant seaman and learns the meaning of "seagoing soldier."
In and around Houston, beer joints were not called bars or taverns—they were called Ice Houses. Stella's Place was one that I had gone to several times when I came home on leave from the Marine Corps. Stella was the wife of a coworker of my father, and her place was frequented by seamen and longshoremen from the nearby port of Houston.
In 1968, at 19, I had just completed my first tour of duty in Vietnam. I couldn't vote, nor was I legally old enough to buy a drink, but Stella and her patrons viewed me as having earned the right to at least a few beers when home on leave. I had been home only a few days, and I was in a state of mind that is close to impossible to put into words. I had dreamed of being back in "The World" for the past 13 months. During those 395 days I knew that all of life's problems, needs, and desires would somehow mystically end once the "Freedom Bird" landed.
It didn't happen.