California Dreaming…Why I miss you, What I like and Why I’ll return.
Let me start by saying I love California! I love everything about it. The people, the beach, the smell and yes the traffic. Of these favorites though I love the smell of California. As you come into Orange County…Laguna Beach, San Clemente, San Onofre (Sano Beach) Camp Pendleton you pick up the warm smell of the air. It smells like a vase full of spring flowers, like wild weeds in a field, to me it smells like home…like a “girl” I know.
California is my “Heaven”. It’s where I became a man, it’s where I woke up to the sound of waves crashing against the golden sands. The beaches here are long, wide and the sand feels like powder beneath your toes. It’s a place where you can dream and if you dream hard enough, a place where you can be anything you want.
When I was in the Marine Corps we would get our weekends off, so long as we didn’t have any ops going on. My friends and I would take off Friday after being dismissed for the weekend and pile into a car and head off to our adventure that awaits. We would go to the beach, drive up and down the coast or go to the mountains. Whatever we’d do, it was always together and always us. People would say Jim and I looked a lot like brothers, so we’d play the part sometimes…especially if we were picking up girls. Jim had an old girlfriend back in Chicago and she was/is Italian with the matching last name. So where we would go, Jim and I would be brothers with this last name and we were from Modesto, California. Our father would own a small wine vineyard. We could play the rich kid easy enough…we would have just came back from a two or three-month op and would have a few paychecks sitting in our accounts (we wouldn’t think twice about blowing it all on an adventure…and sometimes did). This worked out for Jim and I on many occasion (part of the bad I once was). You see living in Southern California you were right in the middle of America’s Playground. Within a few hours drive you could be in LA, San Diego, Mexico, Las Vegas or Lake Havasu. Where ever we would go, we’d make sure we were the center of attention…sometimes good…sometimes bad, but all times fun!
This one time in Lake Havasu, Me, Don and Ski (Don and Ski were also from Chicago) showed up on Memorial weekend with hardly any money between us. Only the clothes in hand and maybe one change of T-shirt (you could wear boardshorts for any occasion out there). Anyway, I let Don talk me into buying Old Style beer once we had stumbled onto a Walgreens (back then they were mostly in Chicago). If you ever tasted Old Style, well you just might stop drinking forever. We were driving my red AMC Spirit which Ski affectionately called “The Hat” because of its remarkable resemblance to a baseball hat. We had driven the three hours through the desert without air-conditioning all the while drinking beer. When we arrived at the Crazy Horse Campground, we only had enough money to pay for primitive camping…seeing that we didn’t have a camper or a tent, I thought it would suit us just fine. The landscape of the Arizona Desert was mostly sand and very hilly…even mountainousness. To get to our “primitive camp spot”, I had to drive down this steep trial across the washed out riverbed and up an equally steep hill…in “The Hat”. As you can guess we didn’t quite make it up the hill…the first time. I backed down and got back to the top of the other hill from once we had just came. I then looked and Don and Ski who had that somewhat worried look on their faces…you know the look, it’s the one you had the first time you saw Wylie Coyote strap that ACME Rocket to himself. I said hang on and floored it. We hit the bottom of the hill and bottomed out The Hat a few times; still with my foot on the floor we bounced and bucked our way to the top ( The Hat would never be the same). Once on top we parked got out, drank a beer to the 100’s of campers (college students) cheering for us. Later on we had decided that no one else was up here, so we drove back down to the crowd. None of us would have imagined that we would have become the hero’s that we were because such a crazy stunt. That was the first time I realized, with $10 in your pocket, a little crazy in your brain and not much to lose…you can drink for free all weekend and solve your problem of where to sleep.
My life would never be the same!