I had two good friends in the Air Force. One was Gilbert. That’s him at the rear doing his ladies’ man pose. Gilbert was born in Sant-Amant, France, and immigrated to the United States when he was about 15, landing in Boston.
The other was Adrian. That’s him in black. Adrian lived and died a Southern California boy. The third fellow is me, of course, a Georgia Cracker.
We first encountered one another at Castle Air Force Base in central California. It was the first assignment after basic training for me and Gilbert, but Adrian, two years older, had already pulled a stint on the island of Guam.
Adrian was an electronics technician. Gilbert was a secretary. I was a survival equipment technician who maintained survival gear in the F-106 Delta Dart, an interceptor aircraft. Unlike electronics and typing, mine was not a useful skill in civilian life.
One day Adrian and I were in the Base Exchange, and he decided to steal something. I forget what. We got nabbed at the door on our way out. I did not know before that moment that Adrian had heisted anything.
We both were questioned, and I was let go, but the event snowballed for Adrian and he was given a psychiatric discharge. He returned to his parents’ home in Venice, California. I believe the photo at the top was taken after his discharge. Gilbert and I were visiting.
Adrian had purchased that old Indian trike motorcycle we were sitting on.
* * * *
I got out of the Air Force, moved to New Orleans and got married. Gilbert, still in the military, passed through New Orleans on his way to being stationed in Puerto Rico. I introduced him to a woman friend, and they got married not long after.
Around 1968, Adrian rode a Triumph Bonneville motorcycle from Los Angeles to New Orleans. My wife and I put him up for a while, but he had a habit of lounging around our apartment in his underwear while I was out working.
My wife didn’t like this, understandably, so I politely asked him to go. He drove the Triumph back to Los Angeles. We kept in touch by mail, and I looked him up in Southern California during a visit in the early 1970s.
He had married a woman with two upper-front teeth missing, giving her a reverse-rabbit look, and they lived in a bedroom in his parents’ home.
Adrian was fond of motorcycles, movie theaters and high-end stereo gear. He worked part-time as a projectionist in a movie theater. He was very intelligent, as Jewish guys usually are, but he never seemed to understand how the world works.
He often appeared bewildered.
I lost touch after that last visit. Over the past decade, I have Googled his name (his last name was uncommon), but I never found anything till this week. He popped up on an obituary website. No photo, few details, not much of anything.
Just this scant information:
Born September 13, 1942. Died February 10, 2010, in Adelanto, California. Age 67.
I went to the website of Adelanto’s newspaper to search the obituary files. There was nothing about Adrian.
One wonders if he stayed married to the woman with the missing front teeth, if he ever found full-time work he could grasp, if he had children and where he lived after his parents died. He was a lost and wandering soul.
* * * *
Gilbert and his wife moved to New Orleans from Puerto Rico after his discharge. They later divorced. Another Jewish fellow, he did what they do best. He started a small business, a chemical supply company that he ran single-handedly for years.
And he still lives in New Orleans. He just turned 68, as I will later this month.