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."That tall one, sir," replied the cop, pointing at me."And these other four? What were they doing?""They were sitting down, encouraging the big one," the cop said."Very well.The four of you are given a thirty-day suspended sentence.But you," said the judge as he stared me straight in the face, "you seem to be the real troublemaker.Sixty dollars, or thirty days in the Baltimore penitentiary.That's all; clear the room."The huge Baltimore penitentiary was something new to me.It was bigger than the New York Tombs.Every day at a certain hour the cell block door opened and newly-arriving prisoners walked through it.They were met by a large gathering of prisoners standing in a circle, looking for a friend or a face they knew.I could imagine what Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dame, must have felt like with his distorted face.When I walked through the ranks of the prisoners, there were sounds of shock.No one attempted to look me in the eye.My jaw was by now hanging open, and I was gasping for air.Word had gotten out rather fast that the cops had beaten me up, and that I was no thief, but a radical.The guards in the prison took a sympathetic view toward me.At the dining room table, the rule was that whether you liked it or not, all food on your plate had to be eaten.Many prisoners stuffed their shirts with bread or other food they couldn't eat, then dumped it later.My plate was full of stew.I was sitting on the aisle seat, the guard only inches from me.I made several attempts to eat, but I concluded that it was less painful to risk more time in the slammer than to eat.I looked at the guard, waiting for a negative response.He saw the rough time I was having.He nodded his head that it was okay for me to leave the food on my plate, but I could remove the bread by stuffing it in my shirt.I asked the guard if I could see the doctor.The doctor was a nasty bastard.The first thing he did was admonish me for wearing a button that read, "Striker." "Do you think that's all there is to life, striking?" I couldn't answer, but made a grunting sound.He sat me down in a chair, then, grabbing my chin, he quickly pushed the jaw upward.As steeled as I tried to be, the pain was overwhelming and I let out a terrible moan."Now it pains you, huh? Well, you should have thought about that before you went around striking.Here are some aspirins.The dentist will be in next week.You can see him."Late that afternoon I was bailed out.My companions had visited a West Coast ship, one of the Weyerhauser Line.They told about my arrest and how urgent it was to get $60.The crew dug into their pockets.I was bailed out.For weeks after the incident, I did not come across the cop who worked me over, though he was constantly on my mind.I had devised dozens of ways of doing away with him.But if my luck ran true to form, the creep would most likely die peacefully in bed at a ripe old age.Things were quiet now in Baltimore.My jaw had healed.A sympathetic dentist worked on my loose teeth.With the exception of finding it hard to inhale through my nose, I started to feel okay.I got permission form the Party to move back to New York.There was some talk of training me to take over a section of the Brooklyn waterfront as Party section organizer.Brooklyn handled a lot of the port of New York's shipping and was a heavy concentration point for longshoremen.For a few weeks I worked with the district organizer, following him to meetings and sitting in on conferences that seemed to go on day and night.I found myself seeing less of the waterfront and more of meeting rooms and postal workers or shirtmakers or newspaper peddlers, hearing their problems and possible solutions.It was all worthwhile, but darn it, I was a seaman.I felt homesick for the sight of a ship's mast.I was unhappy with my present assignment and I knew I would be a lot sadder if I were to be shackled to working in the job they had planned for me.In addition, there was talk about a pending West Coast maritime strike.I took off one day and visited the Seamen's Defense Committee, the storefront headquarters of the permanent committee that was to prepare for the next East Coast strike.A West Coast ship had arrived in Jersey City and needed some men.They called and asked specifically for West Coast seamen who might be on the beach.It came at an ideal time.I took one of the jobs and headed for Jersey City and the President Garfield of the Dollar Steamship Line.Chapter XVII: All Kinds of Solidarity on a Dollar Line ShipThe President Garfield was on the final stretch of a `round the world voyage.She had left San Francisco two months earlier.We were to head for San Francisco, the end of the voyage.A new, spirited breed of men were on this ship men who had gone through the San Francisco General Strike.They were seasoned fighters who held the shipowners in absolute contempt, never forgetting the men who had been beaten or even shot dead in the '34 strike.They were tough, hard-drinking men with a strong sense of loyalty to each other.We set sail for Havana with some 250 passengers.The most unique feature of this ship was its skipper.His name was Gregory Cullen.An old master mariner, he hated unions and, above all, men from the fo'c's'le.In the tropics he wore the typical gentleman's gear as he paraded around the deck or bridge: white shorts, knee-high stockings, a Pith helmet and swagger stick.Mussolini was his hero and his closest friend was the Italian Fascist Count Ciano.Whenever Cullen was in the Mediterranean and met an Italian naval vessel, he ordered his sailors to race back and aft and stand by the American flag on the stern.As soon as both vessels came abreast of each other, the mate was to give a few short blasts of the whistle, a signal to the sailors aft to lower and raise the American flag while he stood at attention on the bridge, extending his arm in a Mussolini-fascist salute.The President Garfield had a large number of Chinese in the stewards' department.The Dollar Line had a policy of using Asians on their passenger ships and operated a special school in Shanghai to recruit and train hundreds of Chinese men for company vessels around the world.The average pay for these men was $15 a month, which they received when they were paid off in Shanghai.The "Number One Boy" received a little more, because his job was to keep his brethren in line during the voyage.Since the Chinese were characterized as "indentured slaves" and had been used by the Dollar Line as scabs in the 1934 strike, the West Coast unions were waging a campaign to get them off the ships and replaced with union men.Their days were numbered.Because they needed money for shore leave in foreign ports, they were forced to engage in rackets.In some ports where beer, booze or wine was cheap, they pooled their resources to buy up as much as they could.After the ship cleared port and the crew hankered for a taste of something alcoholic to get them on an even keel, the Chinese sold their stock to the crew at quadruple the original price.Havana, a city of dire poverty, a sailor's port of cheap booze, open to every conceivable vice, was our last stopover before entering the Panama Canal.Young kids followed foreigners ashore in this humid city around in droves: "Hey, mister, you want to sleep with my sister, huh? Hey, señor, you want a virgin, cheap?" Havana was like a city under marshal law; soldiers with rifles and fixed bayonets were on every street [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]