When one flies to see a friend using a major airline carrier, under normal circumstances, you would likely expect the person to fly into the closest international airport. Seems like common sense, right? It becomes even more likely, when you e-mail the flight itinerary to the friend well in advance so they have the information at their immediate disposal. But such was not the case on my journey to meet the prolific blogger, also known as, Mustang.
After arrival at the airport, you can imagine my surprise at having no one to greet me. I searched and searched, but to no avail. After asking countless airport workers and TSA agents if they had seen a fierce looking retired Marine watching the gates for an arrival, I began to wonder if this was a set-up.
“Come on down anytime“, he would often say. For years, I didn’t have the opportunity. But now with airfares at a peak season low, how could I resist? So after my long and exasperating search, a certain reality was starting to set in: There was a good chance this was just another sick game the man we know as Mustang, was trying to play. I even wondered if he had been watching undercover, from a distance, to get some cheap kick out of watching an out-of-towner look frustrated.
After a few hours had passed and I had smoked about a half of a pack of cigarettes, I was sitting on a bench in front of this huge international airport, staring at my shoes and wondering just what the hell I was going to do. Slated for a four-day visit in a city where I only knew him, with no car, no hotel reservations, and no idea how I could have fallen for such a sadistic prank, I was beginning to feel pretty low. Little did I know that it was then, the nightmare was about to begin.
As I stared at my shoes feeling sorry for myself, a pair of spit shined sneakers came into my line of sight in front of me. I started to slowly look upward, but before I could lift my head very high, the theme song from The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly began to play in the distance. When I finally made eye contact with this tall menacing looking figure that was in front of me, he said, “Are you LA Sunset?” “Yes sir”, I replied. But before I could say anything else, he barked out in a commanding voice, “On your feet, scumbag!” He then proceeded to chew me out royally in front of hundreds of other poor saps, who were waiting for their rides to pick them up.
He went on to say, “I just spent hours waiting at the General Aviation Airport near my ranch, and your sorry ass wasn’t there!” I tried to ask him if he had received the itinerary via e-mail, but he went into this thing about how only sissies flew on luxury airliners, so I figured it was not a good time to try to reason with him and certainly not the time tell him how I upgraded to business class for only $69.
After the dress down in front of a now gathering crowd, he forced me to double-time with my luggage in my hands to his vehicle, while he sang risqué cadence not suitable for children. I was dropped twice for push-ups, because I wasn’t sounding off loud enough (but that’s not important, now).
Once we were on the road, he began to tell me how I was about to enter the world of a Marine and that I would not be permitted to do anything, without earning the privilege. He further stated that he didn’t want to hear any soft, Army stories. He reminded me that Army stood for “Ain’t Ready to be Marines, Yet". Once we got to the Mustang Grapefruit Farm and Alligator Ranch (Chesty Acres), I figured things would settle down some. But that was just wishful thinking on my part.
On arrival, he showed me to my quarters. Once I placed by luggage down, I turned around only to find Mustang with a toothbrush in his hand. I told him I had a toothbrush and thanked him anyway. But apparently, I had miscalculated the intended objective of this exercise. It was at that time, he gave me one of the famous Mustang glares and said, “It’s not for your mouth, scumbag. It’s for you to clean the latrine.” And then he went into another long speech about how that would be the last time, he would ever use the word, latrine. Henceforth, we would use Marine terms and the proper noun for it would be, “the head”.
Hours later after “the head” had finally passed inspection, he started to lay down more rules. “If you are tempted to try and flee the compound, it will be futile”, he exclaimed. “In addition to thousands of bears, there are many lakes around here that are home to millions of alligators, which eat Yankees for a living,” he forcefully warned. It was at that time he drove me around to view some of these lakes. Sure enough, the gators were there and salivating as we drove past. I didn’t see any bears, but Mustang simply observed, “They’re experts in camouflage, maggot.”
As the evening came, it was a welcome sight. I was totally spent and dead beat tired, so naturally I requested permission to prepare for "Taps". Initially, it was denied because Mustang said “We ain’t had our beer ration, yet.” So, for the next two hours, we drank a beer imported from the nearest Marine Corps PX called “Chesty Beer.” Mustang made a toast to every Marine who ever served in combat.
After six, or eight, or ten of these, Mrs. Mustang finally decided that enough was enough and signaled lights out. I was very grateful. "Taps" was played, the Marine prayer was recited, and all lights were extinguished.
What a day.
Next Friday: Day Two