It was 1978 or 1979. So I was what? 23? 24?
I had a high school buddy who had prematurely embraced the entrepreneurial vibrancy of the coming Reagan years.
He was involved in the acquisition and distribution of some recreational dietary supplement products, the nature of which was never clear to me.
But he needed to make a trip to LA and he wanted a Wing Man. I was currently "between assignments" with no pressing social or financial obligations, so I agreed to tag along at his expense (being without resources of my own).
He had made a transportation arrangement with a friend of his. We'll call him "Buddy". Buddy had recently joined the U.S. Navy. After completing his initial training somewhere down in Florida, he had driven back home to Missouri to visit his family on his way to San Diego. The deal was, my friend would drive Buddy's 1972, red and white, Gran Torino from Missouri out to San Diego and deliver it to him at the Naval Air Station there.
It was a 'win/win' situation for everybody.
Buddy got to spend more time with his family and fly to San Diego a few days later.
My friend got the use of a way cool car to transport him to the West Coast for his nefarious business purposes.
I got a completely free ride as Shotgun Rider and Wing Man.
Oh Happy Day!
For those of you who don't remember, Starsky and Hutch
drove a red and white Gran Torino.
so we started out cool.
We envisioned a Classic Road trip along the lines of "Vanishing Point" with Barry Newman.
We re-christened the car "The Millenium Falcon" and hit the road in search of adventure!
In retrospect, perhaps the re-christening was ill advised.
Somewhere around Salina, KS the car started overheating and having problems.
Had to have the radiator flushed and a new thermostat. "Buddy" didn't tell us we would be driving an ill-maintained piece of shit!
It took us more than 3 days just to get across Kansas. Thank God for honest mechanics!
We finally got back on the road and made it to Colorado without further incident.
Until we tried to take a car that had spent it's life at sea level in Florida across 11,000 foot PLUS Loveland Pass in Colorado.
Fucking "Millenium Falcon" started overheating, popping hoses and blowing steam just like the 'REAL' Millenium Falcon trying to warp out of danger.
This is me keeping my friend company while he pretends to know anything about cars.
This is me pretending to know more than I actually do about broken down cars.
This is me hitting on a not-completely-repulsive-chick holding the STOP/SLOW signs at the construction site of the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnel which was still under construction and preventing us from taking the easy way out.
We called a tow truck driver who gave us some horror story about reworking the carburetor and other mysterious mechanical devices over the course of several days and several hundred dollars in order to get us over the Continental Divide.
As I recall, we wound up coasting about 10 miles down the mountain to Georgetown, CO where we had a bite to eat, a couple of drinks and time for contemplation.
After much due deliberation and consideration, we abandoned the Millenineum Falcon "in place" and hitched a ride to the Denver Airport where my friend secured air passage to Newport Beach, CA.
He phoned "Buddy" from the airport and left a message on his answering machine informing him that his piece of shit Gran Torino was sitting in Georgetown, CO and that he should make arrangements for retrieval of such as soon as circumstances allowed.
We spent the next week at the Marriott Newport Beach
My friend spent his time playing tennis, while I spent my time on a Holy Quest to find the best margarita on Balboa Island.
After much searching, and much drinking, I finally found the Holy Grail at a little place called "The Tale Of The Whale".
Not only was it a quaint little local place with an interesting history, but (as I recall some 20 years later) the back of the bar was open to the dock, you could rent a pole and buy bait, and fish in the ocean while a waitress brought you munchies and drinks!
I could have spent the rest of my life there!
But, I almost forgot the coolest thing about the whole trip. A completely unexpected brush with greatness.
On the flight from Denver to LA, I saw someone who looked familiar. He was wearing blue cowbow boots and that caught my eye as being unusual.
When we got to LAX, I saw the guy exit the plane, go through the same lines as us, claim his luggage just like us, and go sit on the bench waiting for a bus, just like us.
As I'm sitting next to him, I finally get the nerve to ask...
"Did anyone ever tell you you look JUST LIKE Slim Pickens?"
He replies, "Sometimes I feel like him!"
Yep! That's him! Blue-shark-skin-cowboy-boot-wearing-A-bomb-riding-shovel-hitting-Slim-Fucking-Pickens! Sitting on the LAX bus bench next to yours truly.
Look up the definition of 'serendipity', and it will have this picture of me and Slim sittting on a bus bench as a prime example.