'Wheels up at 6 AM Sharp'

March 27, 1974

I found Stoney early in the mornin’ at his new place on the Bay of Acapulco. He was literally pulling in one of his late-night cast out fishin’ lines and he’d been doin’ this routine regularly since he moved to this new water’s edge location. On this particular mornin’, he had two Barracudas on his homemade hooks, lines and rather crude makeshift bobbin’ sinkers, but hey, they obviously did the job. After the long line was pulled in, we each unhooked a Cuda and then Stoney completely took over from there.

First, he took his machete and cut up the two fish to fit just right into his large steel fryin’ pan. Now standin’ right in the middle of his makeshift onshore sandy kitchen, I learned exactly what was is in his secret sauce and special grease he used to prime his skillet, and I swear that dude could flavor a piece of leather and make it taste good. I mean it and believe me, Barracuda is really not a hearty tender and flavorful fish to begin with, but like I said, his secret primers and then the final killer sauce added at the end made it almost taste like a delicacy, but let’s keep it real and go heavy on the almost thought. . . Just messin’ with ya here bout’ my buddies kitchen skills.

Yeah, well so anyway, he’s havin’ a fish fry at 6:30 in the mornin’, but hey, nothin’ was normal in the world we were livin’ in. I was just glad I came by, or I should say more like dragged myself over after we had a nice night out at a couple of discos’, chasin’ beautiful young ladies that were tourists that came from all over the world. Yep, that was a fun night out but now it’s going to become a fishy mornin’, but like I said before, nothin’ was routine or average for us and that’s the way we liked it.

So back at the ranch, Stoney usually shared his catch and cookin’ and clean up details with a couple of local divers who worked alongside em in his tropical fish collectin’ business, but today it was just us. We’d knock off one of those big long babies together and he knew how much I liked his fish fryin’ technique, so we’d pack the second one up so I could chew on it durin’ my busy filled day that was ahead for me.

I’d intentionally kept my buddy in the dark for the past week regardin’ some personal business that I was preparin’ to do, and that was done specifically cause he made it clear for many months that he wanted to keep as much distance away from my action as possible, and I wanted that for his safety and well-bein’ too. But besides wanting to share with em his tasty fish fry mornin’ treat, I wanted to ask my buddy if he wanted to go out again tonight to some new disco’s I’d been wantin’ to check out, cause I told em I was feeling lucky and wanted to cast my so-called fishin’ net out and see what I could catch.
He always liked my sense of humor and my friend really seemed to bring the best out of me for feeling good and wantin’ to joke ah~round, so I appreciated that greatly.

So Stoney bein’ himself as usual with me, meanin’ not holdin’ back and comin’ right at me, asked me as we stood across from each other as he was tossin’ round’ the fish in the skillet, ‘What’s this celebration all about this time?’, but then he answered his own question like he’d done plenty of other times before. So here we are conversin’ in our fish fryin’ early mornin’ chat;

“T, come on man, I already know it’s that flying time of the month for you and I’m well aware of your ritual you like to do before you hit the skies loaded up.”

“Well yeah, so let me have the joy of havin’ another good time before I make my move.”

“Which plane is it this time, that silver tin tuna can with rubber bands and baling wire holding it together, or that scrap heap pile of paper-thin aluminum with more dents in it imaginable that I saw a couple of months ago, you know, the crappy one you practically crashed in?”

My friend always could make me smile and pop out of me some true cheerful laughter cause that dude had a way with bein’ sarcastic and at the same time very serious with me, bein’ that he cared bout’ my safety and total well-bein’, just like I cared bout’ his.

“It’s the latter, your favorite, the old dilapidated aluminum dented up bucket, ya know, the one you call A thing of Beauty.”

“Ha-ha-ha, aren’t you a barrel of laughs, but listen man, I’ve been lately feeling a vibe, and I’m not going to act like I’m not worried and pretend to think everything’s hunky-dory,”

“Stoney, I swear to ya, things are going to change, so just hang in there with me a little while longer. Your regular diplomatic pounding on me are makin’ dents in my thick skull, but I need just a little more time.”
“I hear ya T, but I’m not gonna quit my talks with you about changing your ways, but more important to me right now, is I hope you know I’m not trying to put a jinx on ya.”

“Listen my friend, we’ve been through a lot together in a short time span here in Acapulco and if anyone’s put a jinx on something, I’ve done it all to myself.”

“I want to have a long-life friendship after we both get out of here one day, but the only way we’re going to do that is if we both come out alive and in one piece, especially you.”

“Are you referring to the heavy loads I’m flyin’?”

“Yes. . You’re too loaded up TB, and it’s obvious because the one and only time I saw you take off out of that hidden narrow mountain runway, I thought you were gonna crash for sure man, yeah-no really, I swear I thought you were a goner!”

“I hear ya, and you were right, the weight was almost too much to get the lift I needed, and yeah, it was a close call.”

“You’ve got to get the greed of money out of your mind because it’s going to end up killing you, seriously.”

“No-no, I can’t argue, so I’ve taken your advice as usual. . .This next load is less and there shouldn’t be any lift issues whatsoever this time.”

“Okay, that’s what I want to hear. . .So back to your night out party plans for later, I have to say last night was relatively an early night for both of us, so today I’ll dive in the ocean with the boys for about five hours, then come back here and rest up, and then take the bus and meet you at the Holiday Inn around seven-ish. Is that cool?”

“NO. . I have a much better plan and surprise. . First, no drinkin’ for me and second, let’s meet at seven-ish as you say but I want to treat us to all the ribs we can stack up, so let’s meet at Black Beards. Can you dig it?”

“Yes, sure and thank you. . You’re a generous good guy my friend, but still be ready tonight for some more of my light badgering about your weed world.” As usual, Stoney was coming right at me straight up, and I liked it that way. .

“No-no Mr. Stone, it’s not badgerin’, it’s love man, plus I want to hear more in-depth bout’ those great business ideas you’ve been talkin’ bout’ for my future work back in the states, so that’ll make for some good conversation tonight.”

“Good, good to hear T. . .Hey, and you know what I just remembered to tell ya.”


“Prince Charles is in town on one of the British Navy ships, so let’s go check it out.”

“Ya know, as I was drivin’ down from my mountain cabin I saw down below at the big cruise ship docks what I thought was a British Frigate, so, yeah, let’s go there first.”

“Cool man, thanks. . .You know T, I like the guy and respect what and how he deals with all the crazy fanfare and stuff coming at him all the time, and admire his Queen mom and dad, and how they are such good ambassadors for their country.”
I heard my buddy clearly and appreciated his words. So now we’re groovin’ all during the day, doin’ our own thing just as we planned. I learned later Stoney had a good day of collectin’ beautiful blue florescent damsel-fish with his two-man crew and after that work in the ocean, he did his thing to secure the fish in their special children’s circular holdin’ pools, then he took one of his routine re-chargin’ full mind and body naps. All durin’ that time I guess I should just say I was doin’ my thing, so to speak, gettin’ everything locked and loaded up for my flyin’ gig tomorrow. So after a good afternoon for both of us, we met at the Holiday Inn just as we planned and then we drove down to the docks to check out the British Frigate and see if we could spot the Prince.
Once down there, we just walked round checkin’ out the ship, hoping to get a glimpse or more of the Prince, but it never happened. . .Ah, but the time spent there worked out pretty darn good, cause my man Stoney bein’ his fun and easy flowin’ usual self, managed to introduce us to two adorable young British ladies on vacation. .

I can’t say enough how I always liked how he pulled a rabbit out of the hat, and that night was no exception. . .I’m smilin’ just thinkin’ back to that wild time, and one important note I have to add to this little chat, is that night turned out to be the first double date we ever had and it couldn’t have worked out better. .
But you know, it was kind of funny how at times our American accents seem to throw the girls off, and my buddy and I had the same problem at times too with their accents, but it didn’t hold any of us back from just lettin’ loose and havin’ a fun-filled laughin’ good time at dinner and then some wild natural partyin’ at the discos with the sweet ladies.

Now as far as my fully loaded to the gills old dented rust bucket of a plane as David always called it, well it was waitin’ for me the next mornin’, but my dear friend didn’t miss a beat when at dinner that night as the girls together went to the ladies room to do their thing, my man hit me with his in my face lecture that I had to damn strongly think logically bout’ givin’ up the weed gig I was in and concentrate on a much better life and future for myself. He always in his own special sort of way kept up the drumbeat to make the point of my luck may only last for so long and if it ran out, then I wouldn’t be a~round to enjoy all the money I’d already made.
I know he was right, no question bout’ his point, but I was young, strong, stubborn and openly admittin’ to bein’ very greedy. .
But the bottom line though after a great night of pure fun and pleasure, was

Wheels Up
6 AM