Camp Pendleton. Hours before a 72. Heavily-tattooed Marines standing in formation. All amped up for the weekend. Ready to kill. Ready to fuck. Patiently waiting to be cut loose so they can take over Oceanside like Genghis Khan. Drinking. Smoking. Ah these insane men... Jones, Smith, Carkoski, Ames.
Short hair flowing down the 5 in their Mustangs and Jeeps, edging traffic out of their way as they pass like a bolt of lightning.
Libo was on. Devil dogs from all over the north end of base rolled in packs toward San Clemente, Oceanside, and San Diego. The hardcore, the motivated, the seniors without any fucks left, all grunts … bringing along their backpacks and sunglasses, secure in their reputation as being in the most forsaken job in the whole history of the US military.
From the Basilone Road gate, they went toward the Triangle — three bars in close proximity in San Clemente — where three dozen or so would drink, fight, and drink some more, while some would be arrested for public intoxication or for urinating on a parked car.
Others drove toward Oceanside in a pack of Chevy Camaros and lifted F-150s, driving for 30 miles or so as dangling truck nuts swayed along the freeway as passersby anxiously moved to the side.
Some will end up in the bushes puking their insides out. A few because they were dared to drink from their dip spit bottles; others because it's their bodies' only defense to escape alcohol poisoning.
And if you climb the tall hill behind Camp Horno and look west, if it's the right time of day and the light is just so, if you look with the right kind of eyes, you can see the line: The point where the dream of safety, of maturity, the dream of prudent and discerning decision-making, reached its high point, crested and broke and receded back into the distance.
Never to return.
Lee Ho Fuk and Dick Scuttlebutt contributed.