I was station in California in 1992. After the war ending, I was blessed, an old dream came true. I was living on the California coastline. I had no debt and I lived in the Army free housing. Car insurance was my only bill and I had plenty of money for travel, food and the booze. I befriended some wild people. Ron Padget, a Baltimore kid. Wild as the sea. He made me try Suicide boarding the sea. He hated the Army and he was always in deep trouble. Gail, a six-foot beauty, I had a crush-on her for months. I timed breakfast and lunch daily to be able to talk to her and sit with her during lunch. She was a natural beauty. Coffee brown eyes, tan legs and perfect slim body. I believed too beautiful and wonderful for me. We became great friend and one day she asked me. You don’t like me? You talk of the great adventures and you never ask me to come? I looked into her demanding eyes and I told her the truth. I was afraid to lose you as a friend. You make me feel weak and hopeful. She laughed at my words and she whispered. I don’t bite Johnnie. Gail was a free-climber and we climbed the fault line every weekend for almost three years.
I rejoined the Army in early 1991. Two brothers committed suicide and poor decisions made me seek proper death. I volunteered for every deadly mission. I didn’t believe in heaven or hell. I was seeking the easy death and the war wouldn’t kill me. It taught me. There are good people and I wasn’t at fault for my brother’s death. I befriended many people. I was mentor by great soldiers. They taught me. Man-up and quit crying. In 1992, the war was done and the Army send me to Fort Ord, California and I was station on the California coastline.
I was lucky. I found comrades in arms seeking hellish place, suicide boarding the Winter storms of the Pacific and free climbing the California fault line. We were loco and we didn’t give a damn. We became famous for our foolishness from God’s country Big Sur to the grand city of San Francisco. Late September, the three of us. Me, Gail and Padget went to the Fall festival in Santa Cruz. We got two rooms at the last motel on the main street.
The motel was cheap, old and ancient. The kind we liked. Had tables and chairs in front. Many people were already sitting, smoking and drinking. Getting high or looking for a high. Gail loved this Motel. She would talk to the people. She told me often. This is my Hotel California. Just people looking for nothing and accepting life as-is, my kind of place Johnnie.
We lost Padget in the city at noon. He was in his magic place. Drugs, women selling flesh and the college kids out of control. He would turn-up sooner or later. We knew. Gail asked me. Can we stay at the motel? Let’s buy some vodka and some juice, some beer and some wine. Let’s sit with the people and talk with pretty please Johnnie.
I have loved Gail since the first moment we talked. I remembered when she demanded my time. She told me. I heard you roam highway one, drink, suicide board the sea and free-climb the fault line. Do you have room for me? I told her, the Pacific is near, she is wild and free. The fault line is ever-changing land and perfect place to climb. Gail, you would be a perfect fit in my life. I remembered she smiled and she held my hands. She whispered. Good and thank you.
We went and we bought three bottles of vodka and three cans of pineapple juice, 24 cans of Miller beer and four bottles of wine. We went to the motel. 24 rooms and $100 a night. Most of the people were writers, musicians, hippies, poets and the friends of the college kids. Some permanent resident also. The women of the nights and the people seeking places to hide. A safe haven for the few liking real life, drink and conversation.
Gail was tire of walking. She loved Santa Cruz, she loved the strong coffee, friendly people, live music and the street musicians. We had walked for 8 hours. I told her time to drink and relax. We found an empty table and I loaded the three bottles of vodka and juice and the wine on the small table. I iced the beer and we had the attention of many of the guest.
Gail notice an older man with a guitar near and he was sitting alone. I offered my hand and I introduced myself. My name is Johnnie and this is my friend Gail. He smiled and he took my hand. He told me my name is Hernan, once a traveling musician from Argentina. Glad to make your acquaintance . Gail smiled and she asked. You like Vodka, me and Johnnie favorite. He smiled and he told them. Here at the poor man motel, wise men never complain when the drink is free and good. Vodka, drink of the ancient Gods. I would be honor to share the drink and we can share story. I do have a wife, dear Elena will be here soon. I told him. Be my honor to have you and your wife with us tonight. I hope you will sing for us.
Elena came, 20 years younger than Hernan. A Scottish beauty with dangerous blue eyes, wearing a sun-dress showing robust breasts and full figure. She had a smile that could steal your heart. She shook our hands and we begin to talk and drink. Hernan drank the Vodka straight and we touched glasses often. We toast to life, friendship, the sea and to good company.
Hernan begin to tell us a story. 15 years ago, I came to Santa Cruz alone. I have given-up on everything. My children had grew-up, the wife was gone and I needed the California coastline. She is myth and tale for us who love to sing, dance, drink and write. I sat alone in the same table as today. Alone and waiting for no-one. A pretty girl was watching me. She had the eyes of the blue sea, wearing a tank-top and shorts. I remember she came to me and she asked. Can you play the guitar? Can I sit with you? I looked at her. Her blue eyes searching my face and I asked her. What song do you want to hear?
She looked around her and she told me. We have hippies, whores and dangerous people near. Drug addicts sleeping in the streets. Life is meaningless here. Sing me a true song, dirty and honest. She smiled and she introduced herself. I’m Elena from Scotland. A dancer looking for work and some good company. Your face look safe. I played Hotel California for her. She loved the song and she took my hands. Whispered. This place is our Hotel California. Why are you here alone? I told her my sad story. After I was done, she came closer and she whispered. No angels here at our Hotel California. No easy life and today. You and I. Maybe have found even ground?
She stood-up, took my hands and she told me. We need a new story. A better story. Let’s us go to the Santa Cruz bay. Sit and watch the dancing sea. I promise to make you laugh and cry. She did. Now for 15 years, we return to the same motel and beautiful Santa Cruz. Elena laughed at his words and she told us. The motel is the same. Still old hippies, whores, and dangerous people near. There are drug addicts still sleeping in the streets and me and my Hernan are here. We love our Hotel California. The beer was cold now. We shared with the other guest near. A pretty Poet name Ann read some words for us.
Leftover people and leftover dreams,
find their safe havens at the Hotel California and the sea.
High class hotels, beautiful people and fancy rooms are nice.
Just fake faces and place. High price drinks and fake smiles.
Here at the Hotel California,
no need to pretend.
Nice to hide your face.
Women of the night, old hippies and last chance people.
Can feel alright,
If you are here to hide, here to die.
Here to make profit.
Doesn’t matter to us at the Hotel California.
Everyone applaud her words. She smiled and requested a vodka and juice for payment. I gave her payment. More drink was added to our table. Laughter and talk was spoken openly and freely. Nice when strangers don’t need to hide secrets and can show real face. Hernan told me and Gail. Thank you for the good night, don’t allow death to catch-up with you. Sing till you can’t no-more and remember. Dead is dead. Here at the Hotel California. One lesson is learned. You will die and you must live. If you only want death. You will forget how to live. Better to laugh, drink and dance till the end. The Gods gave us choices. Cry or laugh? Hate or love? Sit or run? Be domain or travel? Live my new friend. Don’t allow death to catch-up with you.
Me and Gail went to the sea. I embraced her tightly. The full moon blessed us and the sea.