Monday, February 10, 1969
Our flight to CONUS departed in the late afternoon. We flew into the darkness for over 13 hours. The sun came up before we began descending, but there was nothing to see because of cloud cover. The flight started getting bumpy, and it was obvious we were nearing El Toro when the landing gear was lowered. Finally we broke through the ceiling, and things became smoother; I could see the morning traffic on the Santa Ana Freeway. After a smooth landing the pilot announced, “Please remain seated until we reach the terminal.” Immediately everyone was unbuckled and cheering in the aisle.
We disembarked and walked onto the wet tarmac . . . a few Marines got down and kissed the ground. In the terminal building, we were seated and instructed to wait for our name to be called. There was a counter with windows (like a bank), where each Marine was issued travel pay and their orders were endorsed.
A Sergeant approached me and said, “You were my coach on the Rifle Range.” I didn’t recognize him, but he was wearing an Expert Badge so I took credit for it. When he found out that I didn’t need my travel pay immediately, he took me to a window and time stamped my orders. I was then free to go through Customs. Just outside was a bank of phone booths so I dropped a quarter in one and dialed the Operator. I gave her the Laguna Beach number and she said, “Please add 15 cents to complete your call.” I put in another quarter, and the phone rang twice before Jenny answered. I said, “I’m here” and she responded, “I’m on my way.”
With my sea bag over my shoulder, I walked toward the front gate. The shortest route was to go past Station Headquarters. I heard the loudspeaker’s “click” so I put my sea bag down; it was 0800 and time for morning colors. The bugle began playing “To the Colors” as I stood at attention and saluted while the flag was raised. When I reached the front gate, a sentry waved me through, and I crossed over to the Dry Cleaners.
The owner of the Dry Cleaners was a huge man (maybe 400 lbs.). * He came out and greeted me, “Just getting back from Vietnam?” I smiled and politely said, “Yes Sir.” He remembered me and asked my name. When I gave it to him, he went back inside and checked his Rolodex file to see if my account was paid up to date. He never returned.
Our blue VW made the turn from Sand Canyon Road, heading toward the front gate; Jenny pulled up next to me, grinning her big smile. I loaded the sea bag in the backseat and got into the front passenger seat of the car. We hugged and kissed awkwardly over the gearshift and headed for Laguna. It had been an awfully long time, and I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She looked confident and self-assured.
Once in the Laguna house, we wasted no time and were quickly in bed. After our first session of “love making,” we cuddled and talked. Our conversation was interrupted by the wind outside.
A Pacific storm was rolling in with gale-force winds. The trees were thrashing against the house, and we heard thunder in the distance. Still naked, we hunkered down under the covers of the twin bed. A flash of lightning lit up the bedroom as thunder crashed overhead, and hail was pounding on the roof. The center of the cloudburst was now above us.
The storm finally passed, but a soft rain continued to fall. We took showers and started getting dressed but ended up back in bed. Our hormones were on fire so we tested our stamina and purposefully prolonged the sex. Afterward we simultaneously said, “Thank You!” We both laughed . . . it was a special moment.
In the late afternoon we went to dinner at our favorite restaurant, “La Paz.” ** Our waiter (Louis) asked if we wanted our “regular” order (Sanborn enchilada and chicken taco). When I said, “Yes,” he commented, “We haven’t seen you in a while.” I explained that I had just returned home from Vietnam. Louis put the menus and order pad down and said, “Welcome Home,” and he gave me an emotional hug.
After dinner we went to the Laguna Hotel where we had met, and we enjoyed a few drinks in “The Captain’s Cabin.” Jenny wanted to go to the Gazebo where we first kissed so we drove up to the iconic overlook.
The sun was setting as the storm had passed. Clouds were a mix of dark purple, orange and violet, and the ocean mist scattered the light. There was a beautiful “Afterglow.” It was both a visual and inner feeling. At first I thought it was the drinks, but maybe it was leftover hormones.
We stood in the same spot of our first kiss, and we kissed again, as if it was the first time. This was a new beginning. The storm (Vietnam) was behind us, and we looked forward to our life together again.
* See previous blog, “A Trip to the PX” December 1967
** See previous blog, “La Paz” December 1967
Addendum: Letter from Sumo