El Centro or Bust (A Steve G. Adventure)
“Hey Roy, lets go to El Centro real quick!”
Steve G. Popped his head in my Barracks room door, circa 1984 Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, AZ. It was Friday and adventure called. “Sounds good Steve. I’ll be I’ll be over in about an hour.” Long before cell phones we communicated the old fashioned way. We had a general idea where the other people would be, and would go look for them.
Exiting the dark cool barracks I was momentarily blinded by the desert sun as I made my way across the dusty parking lot toward Steve G’s barracks. Entering through the side door, the floors of the long freshly buffed hallway reflected fine buffer swirls and smelled of a fresh coat of wax, reminding me of the weekly field day that takes place in every Marine barracks as far back as when Jesus was a Corporal. I opened Steve’s room door it was dark, and I heard some mumbling coming from one of the corners of his room. Suddenly Steve came out of his bathroom and turned the light on. “Hey Roy, I’ll be Ready in a minute.” Looking down in the corner, I saw Steve’s Roommate Louis, hunkered down continuing to mumble. Steve was wearing a dress sock like a headband which many might question why, I knew it was what Steve G. Called “the sock treatment”, apparently it helped flatten down his stubborn curls. I have to say, “the sock treatment” was just one example of the unique guy he was. I guess that’s why I liked hanging with him, unique and non judgemental. “See you later Louie”, Steve shouted to his roommate, as we shut off the light Leaving Louis to his task at hand. (Turns out Louis had recently joined “The Door” a high pressure evangelical cult which reportedly took most of his income, engaged in unsavory practices including telling Louis he should spend his Friday’s kneeling in the dark by himself and attempt to speak in tongues).
We climbed into Steve’s 1970 Monte Carlo. We headed to El Centro which was about an hour away. Steve heard about a small local dance joint which was a nice break from the usual overcrowded bars in Yuma. The sun was getting low in the sky and the long luminescent strings reached out to us from the window across the dance floor as we entered the bar. We we the only Marines in this local bar, it was easy to discern as the big hair 80’s Made our Marine regulation haircuts stand out like a sore thumb. We actual seen a few girls we knew casually from Yuma. We had code names for women when we couldn’t remember their names. Never anything disrespectful, it was just that we were terrible at remembering names. At one of the tables was a girl we called “1920’s along with a few girls we didn’t know. We asked if we could join them, they agreed and we all sat down. I mainly danced with “1920s” by Steve’s encouragement as he coupled with the girl we will call “Amazon woman”. Amazon Woman was well over 6ft tall and could have given Steve a run for his money in an arm wrestling contest. Our evening was cordial enough and nothing to serious. As I often did, I stopped and took in the moment when I was out with my buddy. There we were in some hole in the wall, me slow dancing with “1920s” and him looking up at and Amazon woman. Closing time came. We said goodbye to 1920’s and as it was getting late, Amazon woman said she lived nearby and offered for us to crash at her house. One look at Steve G and off we went. It was hard to see much as we made our way into the house. She showed us to a bedroom down the hallway as she went to her room and we crashed.
Never a cloudy day in the Imperial Valley, the sun came blasting through the thread bare curtains. Still fully dressed with on boots on, Steve G and I woke up hearing muffled voices through the narrow bedroom door. “Hey Roy, I smell breakfast man.” (I once saw Steve G. down 10 pcs of chicken in one sitting). We made our way to the kitchen. There in the kitchen was Amazon woman’s mum slinging up some biscuits and gravy. At the table was her dad and little brother. We introduced ourselves and Amazon Mom asked us to sit down. As we found our way to the table we noticed her Dad had a peg leg(yes, just like a pirate) looking over at her little brother he watched us curiously through about 1/2″ thick eyeglass lenses. We all made small talk, as US Marines, we minded our manners. Amazon mom served up the chow and Steve G was ready. When the biscuits hit the plates they sounded like hockey pucks and I was surprised the dishes didn’t break. Next came the brown sausage gravy. Let’s just say the gravy didn’t flow to well and looked like a piece of greasy jello sitting on the biscuit. We choked down the breakfast and took a look out the front door. The lot was overgrown and thinking of the physical challenges our host faced, we offers to mow the lawn. Let’s just say we probably cut more dirt clods and hidden beer bottles than grass. I had my shirt off, my button-flied Levi’s on and my tan cowboy boots. As that mower created a mini sandstorm, through the dust, I could see Steve G cracking up and egging me on. We finished up, bid our hosts a debt of gratitude and headed back to Yuma. As we drove down the flat desert highway, foothills in the distance, we both sat grinning, musing about our recent surreal experience. We didn’t need to say a word, as brothers, nothing needed to be said.
Rest In Peace Brother.Amen
Btw- no offense meant by the term Amazon Woman, think of her as a radiant Goddess 🙂