MARIO & ME
During the mid-1970’s, I worked for a company called Whittier Plating. A metal chroming business.
My father had been the plant superintendent there for about twenty years.
My job was to drive a pick-up truck full of bumpers to a small warehouse in Santa Maria, California.
I did this job five nights a week. The money was okay, for a single guy, at that time. The only problem I had with the job was trying to stay awake.
I remember, one night I took my friend Mario along for the ride to keep me from falling asleep.
What a character he was! We were both in our early twenties and single…with adventure in our hearts.
Mario was short, dark, and no threat to Al Pacino as far as looks were concerned. He had been a very loyal friend of mine since high school.
He knew a lot about cars, he could fix any problem when it came to vehicles.
But what I really liked about him was that he could make me laugh.
He could be serious in a group of people, but when it was just the two of us, he could be a very funny guy…especially when he was drunk or high.
I guess you could say he was my best friend at that time in my life.
We left the Whittier Plating plant about 11pm. Santa Maria was about 200 miles north of Los Angeles, a three-hour drive, one way.
We took our time driving up El Camino Real, which means the “Kings Highway,” in Spanish. Or, as we know it today, Highway 101.
We were drinking wine the whole trip and getting drunk too.
I remember this one liquor store we stopped at. There was a woman, boy did she have a figure. I know this because her pants were so tight, she should have been arrested!
Anyway, back to the highway. Every night after driving past Santa Barbara, I would get off Highway 101 and take a shortcut inland through the San Marcos Pass.
It saved me about thirty minutes of driving and once we got through the pass, we would connect with the 101 again.
I remember the night really well because it was so beautiful. It was a warm summer night with a cool breeze from the nearby ocean.
The moon was full and bright. There’s no smog out in the countryside so the night was crystal clear. You could even drive with your lights off; I know because we did it a couple of times.
There is nothing but rolling hills, trees and a lake out there with a handful of ranch houses miles apart from each other.
We were drunk and had to stop to pee, so we pulled to the side of the road. It must have been around 1am, in the morning. There was no traffic or anything else out there – just Mario and me. While I was depositing my wine minerals in the earth, I asked Mario – who I believed was standing a few feet from me – what he thought of the clear night. There was no answer. I looked around but he was gone.
I thought to myself, “Where could he have possibly gone to our here?” I called out for him, “Mario, Mario, where are you?” Then I heard his voice come from a distance, “Eddie, I’m over here!” I looked out toward the sound of his voice and was absolutely amazed at what I saw.
There was Mario riding a horse bareback in the middle of a herd of horses in this big open pasture. Now, I wasn’t raised around horses, nor did I ever do much horseback riding. But neither had Mario!
So, I figured what the hell, I’d been drinking just as much wine as he had, so I jumped the barbwire fence and tried to get on a horse too.
But every time I tried to touch one, the horse would scatter. How did Mario do it? I wondered.
Mario saw that I couldn’t get on a horse, so he rode beside me, put his hand out and pulled me up. I jumped up on the back of his horse, and we galloped all over that pasture laughing our butts off.
It was hilarious, two guys riding a horse bareback, drunk, out in the middle-of-nowhere…at one in the morning!
But, at the same time, it was enchanting too. For a brief moment, I imagined we were caballeros, like Pancho and Cisco, out for a moonlit ride.
The only way that moonlit ride could have been any better, is if Mario had been a beautiful woman.
After a short time had passed, we came to our senses and thought it best to get back on the road before we got caught as horse thieves.
We were still laughing at ourselves, as we got back into the truck.
I asked Mario, “What made us want to jump on those horses? What if someone had busted us?
He answered, in his comical way, “You know how they say – when the moon is full, it sometimes drives people crazy? Well, maybe when we were peeing, the moon drove us crazy.” We both started laughing again as we headed back on the road to Santa Maria.
I think back to that time in my life and remember how carefree we were – no real problems to worry about, no responsibilities – just good times for Mario and me.