I had been on a Caribbean cruise to the Bahamas in 1982 as part of a senior trip. I do not have any particular memories from that long weekend. I do recall a long bus ride from Imperial, Missouri to Miami, Florida. I also remember the absolute hatred I have toward the song “Celebrate” by Kool and the Gang which had to have been played a hundred times on the way down. It seems we spent as much time on a bus as we did on the ship. It also seemed like that bus was always stopping for some reason or another. I do not remember having the best time of my life on this particular trip. I was not a popular guy in high school by any stretch of the imagination and I am not very outgoing at all. I am a classic I-S-T-J if the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is to be trusted. I had no girl friend to speak of and the few friends that I hung out with did not go on that trip.
The 2nd Caribbean cruise promised to be different. I was going with friends for one thing. Secondly, we were going to fly. We all realized we had an opportunity to do something special. We also knew it was something we would not ever get the chance to do again. While our dreams of fun in the sun and dancing the night away with women our own age in the hope of experiencing something we had only read about in the Penthouse forum were quickly dashed before we even boarded the ship, we made it our goal to have the time of our life.
I should start by introducing three guys that were willing to spend time and money to be with me during my last days as a civilian. We had so many common life experiences growing up in our little Jefferson County community. To start, we had grown up from young elementary children to junior high teenagers together. We rode motorcycles together, entered high school together and when we were 16, we experienced the thrill of driving cars together. We suffered puberty, survived drug and alcohol abuse, and shared the constant frustration of loneliness brought about by our desire for female companionship. For better or for worse, and mostly for worse, these guys knew me about as well as anyone.
Brett was my best friend growing up and I had known him the longest. I was six years old when my mom and dad settled down in Imperial. I had started first grade in one school district and finished it in another. I would never change primary schools again and graduated from Windsor High School in 1982. Brett was the same age and his folks had a house directly across the street from our double wide trailer which was located on property owned by my aunt and uncle. If I lay claim to being ‘Tom Sawyer’, Brett would clearly be ‘Huck Finn’. We were inseparable for many years. I spent more time at his house and ate more meals with his family than I did my own. I wish time permitted me to write more about my childhood. In time, I will disclose more through these posts to share our great and not so great tales of adventure.
Monty was a good friend as well. We had a history that went back to 2nd grade when we were in Cub Scouts together. We had many things in common and became very good friends in high school and even better friends after we graduated. The third amigo was Mike. Mike was the new kid on the block. He had moved onto our street in a time when people just did not move that much, at least in our tiny community. Mike’s mom and dad bought a home up the street from where I grew up one summer in the mid 1970’s. This was right before we entered junior high school so I would guess we were around 10 or 11 years old. While I would love to write more about these guys sometime in the future, I would love even more to have dinner with them and reflect on where we are at and reminisce where we came from.
As I think about these guys, I realize how great we had it as kids. I said earlier, none of us were very popular in school. We did not need to be. We did not care what others thought all that much in those days. I knew I had the best friends and they were cool in their own way. My friends were as dependable and reliable and loyal as any a guy could hope for. I have two boys of my own, and sometimes I wonder if they will have friends like I had. God in heaven, I can only hope.
Anyway, late January of 1987 we found ourselves sailing one of the seven seas. We ate and drank more than any four human beings should. I wish I kept a journal of our day to day activities. Two decades later, I can just remember a few things: we ate, we drank, and we did not meet any single women so we just continued to eat and drink. And we slept it off so we could do it again. Oh yes, we listened to the Van Halen “5150” CD several hundred times . . like we needed the motivation to go party it up . . .
I came back from Florida and the hedonistic lifestyle (sans sex), had caused me to gain enough weight that when I went to the MEPS to ship out to Florida for boot camp a few weeks later, I was denied for “medical reasons”. In fact, I was given a stern warning. I had to lose 15 pounds in six weeks or my enlistment would be jeopardized. My dad was very confused when he came home from work that evening. He had dropped me off at 5am and 14 hours later there I was sitting in his living room watching television. Well, one advantage to being 23 years old: a pound of body fat could be lost in a single day with a 2 mile run. I quickly lost the necessary weight and on April 20, 1987 my dad took me back to the St Louis MEPS and when he came home from work that evening, I was on an airplane headed toward Orlando.