My dear friend Gary Calhoun died May 27. He was only 68.My wife and I had just gotten married in June of ’74. I completed my Army service on Sept. 11 1973 but waited for my then fiancé to complete college at Mary Hardin Baylor in Belton, Texas. Gleda graduated in May of 1974 and we were married on June 8.
I was a typical San Diego surfer who happened to get drafted but lucky enough not to be sent to Vietnam. I had spoken volumes of the beaches, the people and the culture in general so Gleda was anxious to finally see California for the first time. We got married, took our rings back off as soon as we were in the car and didn’t want to tell a soul that we got married. We only got married because my wife is Hispanic from the deepest south of Texas. She was Baptist and she had two brothers that would prefer she was with any color man except white. So, if we had slipped off to California to shack up I would have found myself on the wrong side of a couple double barrels sooner or later.
I wanted to go back to College. I had sent applications to both Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and to UC Santa Barbara. I was accepted at Cal Poly but we had to drive through Santa Barbara on the way to SLO. As we dropped down 101 into Santa Barbara from Montecito my new wife said, “I’ve been here before” (Of course she hadn’t. She had never been out of the state of Texas). We decided to spend the night in Santa Barbara and check on my enrollment status just for the heck of it. Before going to the admissions office we stood over the point at UCSB and watched these perfect little rights peeling into the cove. Geez, a University with its own private surf break. That was cool. We then found out that I had been accepted. So, SLO was history and I went from becoming an architect to being readied for Law School instead. That didn’t happen though. I got sidetracked and opened one of America’s first skateboard parks instead: Sparks Skateboard Park in Goleta. It has been a crazy life ever since but that’s another story.
We found a furnished apartment in Isla Vista and emptied the contents of the VW bug and mini U-Haul that took about ten minutes. We also met our new neighbors, Paul and Allie. They were very friendly and invited us to go to the beach with them the next day. We did. They took us to More Mesa. Our first day on a Santa Barbara beach and there are about a bazzilion naked people. Gleda and I just looked at each other and said, why not? People were in all shapes and sizes but this was the tail end of the Hippy Era and this was a beautiful thing in that space and time. It cannot be duplicated today. It was just a good time to be young and alive in ‘74.
One of the first couples we subsequently met on the beach that day was Gary and Sheila. Eventually Gary became my daughter Marisa’s godfather. We stayed in touch with each other over these last 38 years. I’ve moved around a little but Gary moved around a lot, especially after he and Sheila broke up. Gary was the penultimate vagabond. He was just the nicest person you ever wanted to meet. He was a genius at Chinese Astrology and worked his way through life making only what he needed to survive. He had some heartbreak with women but he always seemed at peace and he always had the most beautiful women at his side. Gary could charm the socks off anyone. He was just that kind of guy with a smile from here to there and the personality to match.
Gary came to see me about two years ago and stayed for a week. I dragged him to church one Saturday night at North Coast Calvary Church. I felt like I was dragging a dog on a leash from the car to the church steps. Then he lights a cigarette at the door. I yanked it from him, knocked off the cherry and put it in my pocket to give to him later. “For crying out loud Gary you act like you’re going to the guillotine!” I think he really thought God was going to get him right then and there with a big ‘ol lightning bolt.
By the way, have you ever smelled a cigarette butt when it is being saved? I don’t think I saw so many curled up noses around me. At coffee break after the singing and before the sermon with Mark Foreman, we run into my former pastor, Don Seltzer of North Coast Presbyterian Church. I introduce Don to Gary and Gary says “how old are you and what’s your birthday”? I slapped him upside the head. Nonetheless, as the sermon was going on Gary was fixated. It was his first time in church since he was 6 years old. We walked out and he said “Joe, I’ve never felt so much love in my life!!”
Gary was a really great guy and I was proud to call him my friend. Marisa and I introduced him to God. We planted a seed and the seed grew at the right time. He’s having a heck of a good time now in heaven. We already know that. He’s already let us know, but we’ll save that for our book.
Peace be with you Gary: We all love you but don’t be flirting with the Angels!! I’ll see you again when it is my time and then you can show me around the Universe!!
Joe Moris may be contacted at (760) 500-6755 or by e-mail at email@example.com.