The Start of it All
Much has been written in this Blog about the unique group of characters that have come to be called Los Ciscos. Who they are and how we came to be friends covers a lot of ground. And it all started in the late 1950’s when on a field trip to Cabrillo Beach in the port community of San Pedro, a suburb of Los Angeles, a young fellow my age, eight years old, asked to borrow a swim mask and/or fins that I had along with me.
Thus would start a lifelong friendship with Rendy, who unbeknownst at the time would become a founding member of Los Ciscos. We’ve shared many experiences in the intervening years including visits to Yosemite, rooming together in 1972, two trips to Europe (1977 and 1979) and being best men for each other (his only marriage in 1981 and my first in 1974). The fact that we both ended up in North Carolina, just ninety minutes apart from each other is a wonder to me, a coincidence no one could have imagined.
When I graduated from Venice High School (1969, the summer of love) I joined the Venice Triangle Chapter of DeMolay, a fraternal organization affiliated with the Masons. My initial draw was the chance to play fast pitch softball with the chapter’s team, a group that over the years would go on to win a number of league championships. I would climb through the chapter’s hierarchy, eventually becoming the Master Councilor (Chapter President) and meet my first wife Suzanne, who was in Job’s Daughters and for a time served as our chapter sweetheart. Rendy was my best man for that occasion.
The Big Guy
Through shared DeMolay events, I would become acquainted with Evan, who was in the Culver City (Roosevelt) Chapter but it wasn’t until I started working at the Auto Club of Southern California (AAA) emergency road service dispatch station on Westwood Blvd. that our friendship gelled. I primarily handled the radio, sending out calls to drivers in their trucks. At the time Evan worked for Stewart Lock and Key, the locksmith service that covered the west side of town and I’d use his handle, 167echo (for 167E) to give him his assignments, all while we found a way to use the FCC required Ten-Code to communicate with each other in a way that wasn’t necessarily approved by regulations covering radio transmissions.
Evan would join Rendy and I in Europe in 1977, be my best man when Joanna and I married in 1982 and I would return the favor for him a year or so later. One of our favorite activities in later years would be to meet once or twice a month in Seal Beach (Seal Beach Blvd and PCH) to ride our bikes for twenty miles or so, usually down to the border of Huntington Beach and Newport Beach, then return to sit in one of our cars and drink a big bottle of beer apiece we’d purchase at the liquor store on the corner.
Last But Never Least
When I graduated from Cal State Northridge in 1975 with my degree in accounting, jobs in that field were hard to come by and so I used my experience in the field of automobile insurance (I held a property casualty license and had worked for a couple of different insurance agencies as an agent) to land a job at as an underwriter at Wilshire Insurance, a firm specializing in what is known as sub-standard coverage. This is insurance for folks whose driving records or insurance history (claims, etc.) render them ineligible for the premium companies with the best rates, names you know like Allstate and State Farm.
It would turn out to be one of the best jobs I’ve ever held, work I mastered quickly, excelled at and received recognition and promotions for. And I would meet three unique individuals who are still friends today: Tom, J.B., and Doug (aka the Griz). Tom deserves his own post and is not officially a Cisco; we’ll cover him another day. As for J.B. and Doug, our history is long and memorable.
J.B. and I have shared many a road trip including Ensenada (where we met El Jefe), Oregon, Las Vegas, and a long ago visit to Doug at his first Colorado habitation outside of Denver in Madge Gulch, where he lived in a cabin without running water, heat, or indoor plumbing. I was his best man when he married Sheila and I can think of few others I want riding shotgun with me on a cross-country trek.
Doug and I lived together for most of a year in Hemet in 1978 and throughout the years, Joanna and I made Denver a mid-point stop on a number of trips throughout the western part of the United States. I was also Doug’s best man at his memorable wedding in Las Vegas and while on assignment in the Ukraine, he joined us in Amsterdam during our 2007 trip.
Doug keeps track of who calls whom and if you fall behind in your duties, he will ring you early in the morning (he doesn’t sleep well) to remind you that it is your turn to call. He is a true friend.
Cisco, the Legend Begins
So how did the name Cisco come to be? It’s 1981 and Evan, Doug and I are to attend Ann and Rendy’s wedding in Newark, Ohio. I’m the best man and fly in a couple of days early to Doug’s hometown of Hillsboro and he and I then travel up to Columbus where we join Evan at a hotel owned by Rendy’s Uncle Earl. We will attend the wedding and as Doug is moving back to the west coast, leave at the end of the reception and drive his early 1970’s VW van across the U.S. loaded up with all of his worldly possessions.
The week prior to our departure, Evan, Joanna and I played in the championship game for our Church league slow pitch coed softball team (Culver Palms United Methodist Church) and we would win the game, an exciting victory. As I triumphantly returned to my own 1965 VW Van, I discovered that someone had broken into it and stolen my wallet. I would spend the evening at a victory party at Evan’s house calling to cancel and replace my credit cards and would have to borrow one from my parents for the wedding trip just a few days away. Fortunately this was pre TSA and the increasing need to prove identity at the airport.
The wedding went off without a hitch with the exception that the tuxedo’s the wedding party was to wear were not available and the substituted garments put a damper on wedding plans. To make a bold statement, I decided to wear my tuxedo all the way back to California and return it by post to Ohio. And wear it I did. Doug, Evan and I left the reception some time after midnight the Saturday of Labor Day weekend and proceeded to drive straight through to Los Angeles, arriving later on Monday.
I will say it was awfully cold crossing Loveland Pass wearing just that tuxedo (VW vans have notoriously bad heaters) but inspiration struck not long after crossing over into Utah from Colorado, as we saw a sign for Cisco and with a little time on our hands, and most of the alcohol we’d spirited away from the reception having been consumed and worn off, we made our way there. We stopped briefly, snapped a picture and then returned to our journey. The stuff of legend? Hardly and yet it led to our catch phrase.
Fast-forward nearly thirty years when Joanna and I are moving to Charlotte in 2008. She will fly there with the cat and prior to that, J.B., Doug, Evan and I will drive my two cars across the U.S. in forty-four hours, with a short break at a rest stop just north of Atlanta (we just, couldn’t, drive, anymore). It was a wild drive, a true adventure and one of the things that only good friends will do for each other.
Outside of Abilene, Texas, about halfway through the drive and about halfway through Texas (it took twenty-four hours to cross the state) we stopped for breakfast and discovered that we were at a junction that would take us to Cisco, Texas. What are the odds of this? Who would name one town Cisco, let alone two? We knew then it was a drive of destiny. And to commemorate that journey, the four of us along with Rendy have gathered once each year since then to celebrate our friendship and this strange thing we call Los Cisco’s. Not quite a cult, its really just a bunch of old guys with too much time on their hands to making any kind of real contribution to society. But we own it. Who else would claim such a goofy legend?
Job’s Daughters: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Job%27s_Daughters_International
Ten Code: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten-code
Cisco, Utah: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cisco,_Utah
Cisco, Texas: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cisco,_Texas