A few days ago, I got an email from a long lost Marine Corps buddy. His name is Tony, and we were stationed together in Hawaii back in the late eighties. At a time when my life felt fairly crazy and out of control, he was a friend I could count on. Believe me when I tell you how very important that was to me.
I have kept a few photos of us, but my favorite souvenir is definitely a videotape we made with some other friends. (And no, it isn’t THAT kind of videotape.) On a beautiful Saturday morning, I convinced a dozen or so Marines that we did not have to sit around the barracks and mope all day. Instead, we could grab my video camera, hop into a couple of vehicles, and play tourist. Thus, the epic journey known as “Around the Island in 80 Minutes” began.
As the title suggests, we drove all around Oahu. We stopped whenever something caught our attention. We played in the ocean, shopped at Cackle Fresh Eggs, rolled around on the sandy beaches, toured the Dole Pineapple Plant, climbed a tree at Tripler Hospital, and ran around like wild banshees at the Pali Lookout. All and all, we just let ourselves be kids for a day, and it was one of the best times of my life.
Side note: in the story that is my life, everyone around me is defined by their connection to me. Some people play walk-on parts, others are featured in supporting roles, and still others are co-stars. I am sure it sounds vain, but I think we all do it to an extent. I am just the one guy honest enough to admit it.
Anyway, I was really having a tough time with life when we made this video. I needed time away from the base with friends to just laugh and enjoy myself. And man, did I have that kind of day! And I remember Tony specifically, because he played the part of my rescuer for the day. I didn’t realize that at the time, but watching the tape years later, it was clear that he was the “take care of John” guy. And it’s pretty cool to watch.
At one point, I have climbed high up into a tree. (Don’t ask. It made sense at the time.) As I am climbing down, Tony appears below me, catches me as I drop from the last branch, and carries me away. Later, when I am hanging from yet another precarious perch, he is there – again – to literally carry me away to safety. I know it sounds dramatic, but it really wasn’t. It was just a bunch of people being silly and having a laugh. And Tony’s role of “rescuer” was just a way of playing along with the day.
But there is always truth in fiction, meaning in humor. Looking back, I realize that I enjoyed being rescued, even if from my own harmless “danger,” because it made me feel like someone had my back. For just a moment, I felt like I was safe. Thank you, Tony, for giving me that.
And to everyone else that was there that day (Timmy!), I hope the day meant to you at least some of what it meant to me. Today, nearly twenty years later, it is one of my fondest memories. It’s also a great reminder to me to stay in the moment, enjoy all that you can when you can, and the tough stuff will often sort itself out.