U.S. Naval Station Tutuila, Fagatogo Malae

U.S. Naval Station Tutuila, Fagatogo Malae

He leaned against one of the cool cement pillars that supported the line of arches that formed the first-floor facade of the headquarters building. Each whitewashed pillar tapered upward from a two-foot-square base. The arches above them were wide and graceful, the veranda deep--"mission style" architecture. Apelu had learned that term from a tourist. The tourist was a professor of some sort. He had shown up one day when a cruise liner was visiting port and had disgorged all its gray-haired, pink-skinned day visitors to wander around downtown or take scenic bus tours. The professor was taking photographs of the headquarters building and had asked Apelu--still in uniform in those days--to stand beneath one of the arches, "to give scale and local color," he'd said. Apelu hadn't been sure he liked being referred to as "local color," but you had to be nice to these people. They were like children, really: tentative, skitterish, defensive, and weak. There was a childlike innocence in their social ignorance and lack of courtesy. The professor went on about the building and its history. He had read about it in some book.

Apelu had known this building since he was a boy, walked past it, rode past it on buses, but he had never really thought about it. It was police headquarters, a place you didn't want to see the inside of. It was one of those old white buildings downtown, like the courthouse or the customhouse. There was a bunch of similar old buildings--always run-down and in need of a coat of paint--around the parade grounds that had once been the center of the old naval station. They were just part of the ramshackle town of Fagatogo that fronted on the main dock on Pago Pago Bay. The professor told him that all those old buildings built by the US Navy were now part of a historic district that had been written up in some book. This building, for instance, was over ninety years old. It had been built by the all-Samoan Fita Fita Guard as their barracks and command post. Apelu knew about the Fita Fita Guard.

(Pago Pago Tango, p. 30)

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Monday, September 15, 2014 - 9:08am

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