Great Mexican food, three darling little girls crawling over me like I was their favorite uncle, Chuck’s beautiful wife pulling out the stops to make me feel welcome–the unexpected benefits of being the new guy in the squadron. It was a memorable family night and I loved being included. I also wondered whether I would ever be so fortunate to find such happiness.
Chuck was Capt. Charles G. Reed and he and I were going to take two Harriers on a cross-country trip over the weekend. Standard fare, we’d log some instrument time, maybe play a bit over the desert–aerial combat maneuvering–and since we didn’t have to pay for gas, there was absolutely no downside.
Chuck and I left Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, mid-afternoon. Destination? Miramar Naval Air Station Officer’s Club—the best Happy Hour on the planet. Beautiful San Diego. My request, by the way. Tom Cruise would eventually memorialize a typical Friday night in Top Gun. He got it mostly right but I never remember singing anything—too busy whispering ridiculous nothings to the famously abundant ladies. It was a target rich environment in the vernacular of fighter pilots.
Since we were going to depart Saturday morning for Las Vegas and then Seattle, we respectfully declined to drink to excess and just enjoyed ourselves as Marine pilots always do among a sea of star-struck Navy jocks.
We stopped at Nellis AFB in Nevada for gas and then headed for the environs of Seattle. Chuck had been a football player at the University of Washington and wanted to attend some big game. I had other designs. I had met a girl on an earlier trip and well, I was a heterosexual in my prime and my Cro-Magnon self had not yet succumbed to the mercy and love of our Lord.