Jim Doyle: Back to the jungle after spring break in '69

FresnoApril 11, 2014 

This is the time of year when high school and college students wind themselves up like cheap watches, forget everything they have learned about life and differential equations, stuff a suitcase with bikinis, flip-flops, jammer shorts and fake IDs, and head out for spring break.

At some point during their Bacchanalian journey, some are sure to star in the latest "Girls Gone Wild" DVD, or as the featured fool on "World's Dumbest Partiers" on cable TV.

With luck, none of them will lose their lives or be scarred permanently by their antics. In a week or 10 days, they will all be back in their classrooms discussing Western Civilization or 19th century English literature.

Sitting in the quad, Tyler will have his contemporaries drooling as he describes a week sharing a room with six buddies in Puerto Vallarta and meeting the hottest chick on Earth, or projectile vomiting from a fourth floor balcony on South Padre Island at 4 a.m.

Megan will delight her sorority sisters with her account of how embarrassed she was when she discovered this dreamy guy from an old-money Ivy League family turned out to be a nearly 30-year-old high-school dropout who devoted his life to scamming college girls on spring break.

At some point a few years down the road, each of them will think back to their wild and crazy adventure in Cancun or Lake Havasu and swear they will never let their kids go anywhere on spring break except Grandma's house in Tehachapi or Aunt Gay's place in Siskiyou County. These are parents who spent their spring breaks auditioning for "America's Wildest Teenagers" and calling Mom and Dad for bail money because they were "drunk and disorderly" or worse while they walked on the wild side in Daytona Beach. "Do as I say, not as I do" is the mantra that justifies their double standard, claiming they only want to protect their children.

I remember my spring break like it was 45 years ago. In fact, it was almost 45 years ago to the day. Like many of today's spring breakers, I had a choice of where I wanted to go and spend a week away from the hassles and stresses of daily life. It could all be such a grind.

Singapore, Tokyo, Bangkok and Hong Kong sure were a step above the more traditional stateside locations popular with the kids. Kuala Lampur, Manila, Taipei, Hawai, or Sydney, Australia, rounded out the selection list. Any of these places sure beats South Padre and Panama City in the exotic category. To make it more attractive, the travel was paid for.

Hong Kong was the destination that stuck to the wall. It was a two-hour flight to Kai Tak Airport, another hour getting it all together, and a 20-minute cab ride to the International Hotel on Kowloon. A tiny speck of capitalism smack dab next to Red China, overflowing with all the sights and pleasures a young man could imagine.

It was at the hotel where I was introduced to my guide, who conveniently also owned a bar/disco a few blocks away. Together we rode the tram to the top of Victoria Peak, and marveled at the view of Hong Kong Harbor. Our visit to Tiger Balm Gardens had us thinking we had crawled down Alice's rabbit hole and emerged in another world. I guess that was the point.

Soon my week away ended and it was time to get back to the daily grind, and all the hassles and stresses that made it such a special experience.

The two-hour return flight was spent reliving the joys of a week in paradise, knowing that in no time at all I would change back into ratty fatigues, grab a helmet and weapon, and catch a chopper ride back out to the jungle.

Spring break was over.


Jim Doyle of Fresno is a freelance writer and veterans advocate.

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