In the late 80’s early 90’s I had been working with my dad on Cape Cod doing construction,= finishing homes, digging wells and building patio decks, wood work like we use to do when we lived in New York.
When the recession hit the Cape in the 90’s work sort of slowed down and I found myself working full time in the Event Production Industry.
I originally got into lighting design during the mid and early 80’s,
( another story)
I lucked out, landed a job working with a production company in Boston, corporate events, concert reinforcement, event production etc… And in late 1999 found myself traveling to Florida to do a concert for 100 thousand people.
I was traveling down with a co-worker, Mike McIntire, who was also a former Marine. Mike was a Vietnam Veteran who went through Parris Island in 1969 3rd Battalion, He was in Field Artillery and still had some hearing issues, due to the war, Mike was a hell of a guy and an awesome stage hand. I figured since Mike and I were going to drive to Florida this would be a great chance to stop at Parris Island.
But I didn’t tell Mike.
The trip started off well enough, unfortunately the pickup had an issue and we didn’t realize the problem until we stopped in Connecticut at one of those I-95 McDonald’s.
When I pulled into the parking lot, we stopped just on the other side of the drive through. Mike and I got out of the truck, turned and walked towards the building, it took several minutes to get there as we were parked about 150 yards away. When we headed up the steps of the building, both entrance doors flung open wide and the people from inside of McDonald’s were rushing out. In fact the entire building was being cleared.
I looked at Mike wondering what the hell was going on. We stood there in the middle of the crowd rush for a few moments to ask people what was going on, finally a woman stopped and told us that there was a fire inside and that the building was being evacuated.
Mike and I turned around and started to walk back to the truck, as we cleared the double doors we could see the truck, we noticed a trail of thick dark grey smoke coming from the truck, it was rounding the building and going straight into the drive-through window. Mike and I looked at each other almost laughing about the evac, but realized our truck was screwed. Right about then, the Fire Department showed with a few trucks and came over to us standing by the Pick-up.
What had happened was the brakes on the truck had seized up and we were driving on locked breaks for a few hours.
We made apologies to the Fire Department as they were hosing down the rear axle and we proceeded to go on our way. Back in the Pickup, we drove to the next exit and found a repair shop that would take care of our breaks and rear wheel, the clock was ticking and we had a long trip ahead of us.
I called the office in Boston, explained our situation, and had a runner bring a different truck down to Connecticut for us, we cross loaded the gear from one truck to the other and was on our way in about 5 hours.
We drove that day and stopped at a hotel just outside of DC for the night. I still hadn’t told Mike about stopping at P.I. and I was hoping we could still do it, losing time in Connecticut really hurt my schedule and I wasn’t sure I could pull this off.
The next morning we woke up had breakfast and head South again. We drove all day straight on through Virginia, North Carolina and I made up a bit of time as we only stopped for gas and snacks. When we crossed the border into South Carolina (South of the Border) it was really late and I still hadn’t told Mike what was going on, see I hoped that if I could get close to Beaufort late enough, Mike would be half asleep and not notice the signs, and sure enough it worked.
We stopped outside of Beaufort and I booked a room at some Holiday Inn. I don’t think Mike noticed because he didn’t say anything or acted surprised.
We hit our room crashed out for the night… though it took a while for me to fall asleep as I was jazzed up for an excellent day coming .
The next morning broke and we headed to the lobby grabbed some breakfast and loaded into the pickup. I turned to Mike and asked if he minded if we took a detour for a few hours…. Mike looked at me confused and said sure, asked me what was up.
I said Mike were are in Beaufort South Carolina, Lets go on Parris Island for a bit….. It took a second for it to register but Mike’s eyes lit up, He goes, “No Way!” (New England) Yes Way! and just like that Mike says “Hit it”….
As we pulled up to the Gates of the base, I thought we would have a problem getting on, we were in a Company vehicle clearly marked and the Guard on Duty waved us through. The sensations I had as I drove on the causeway to the base were Amazing. All the smells that I had once experienced almost 20 years earlier were very much still accessible by my pallet. The Island hadn’t changed and was still as stoic as I remember. We stopped just before main side at a coffee shop I don’t remember were the shop was, but we went inside an got a coffee to go.
I swear, that was the best cup of coffee I have had in a great long time. It wasn’t pored into my cup any differently, nor was the cream and sugar added in any special way, it was just something about drinking that cup of coffee on Parris Island, made on Parris Island,
that made it phenomenal.
Mike and I drove down through Second Battalion and parked over by the Pool Building, Got out and walked back towards the Grinder. Looking at the Parade deck was a flash back and a half. Lot’s of memories, lots of sweat. Mike and I chatted a bit about P.I. but Mike and I had totally different experiences. Two different era’s. When we past my barracks I pointed out my old Squad-bay, stood there for a second to remember the moments. We walked down Boulevard De France and over to “Old” 3rd BN area were Mike was trained. I gave Mike his space and I could tell he was into it totally.
We had been on the Island a few hours now and it was getting late in the morning we had to go. We drifted back across to 2nd Bn and headed to the pickup, on the way back I had mike take a few pictures for me, and I got a picture of my old Barracks before we departed.
We left that afternoon and drove most of the way to Florida with a lot to talk about. We agreed that this wasn’t a proper trip to Parris Island and that another one was definitely needed.
Sad to say, Mike passed away a few years later in a Motorcycle accident He was leaving work and got hit by a car just at the bottom of the driveway.
Semper Fi Mike, You will be missed.