From jimvan@gate.net Mon Jul 13 21:28:43 1998

Newsgroups: alt.slack

Subject: What I did on my XDay Vacation

From: jimvan@gate.net (Jim Vandewalker)

Date: Mon, 13 Jul 1998 23:28:43 -0500

 

East of the Mikosukee Service Plaza the cypress trees thinned out and the

sawgrass stretched in the gathering dusk to the curve of the world. Every

few miles a wildlife culvert crossed under I-95, and at about mile marker

23 something huge and shaggy humped itself out of the near-side chute and

slammed, red-eyed and howling, against the ten-foot chainlink fence just as

we passed.

 

"Jesus -- " I hissed, jerking the wheel hard over, and the car went into a

sickening four-wheel drift. Behind us came the vast despairing wail of a

diesel's airhorn, and the shriek of air brakes that would never stop the

monster truck in time --

 

"-- ghod!" I was sitting bolt upright in the motel bed tangled in sweaty

sheets and Maggie was staring at me.

 

"Now what?" She'd nodded off over her book and the light on her side was

still on.

 

"My ghod." I was still gasping. "Hunter Thompson -- it was Hunter Thompson.

Riding a rabid bear -- Jesus -- made me wreck the car -- "

 

"I told you that you'd regret that stuffed crab and fried plantain. Take

an antacid and calm down."

 

I lurched to the sink at the back of the motel room and ran some tepid

water into one of the plastic glasses, and drank it looking through the

curtains by the door into the sullen light of the Holiday Inn Beachside

parking lot. The red eye of the clock radio said 12:34. A nightmare like

that leaves you half afraid to go back to sleep, but I must have finally

drifted off.

 

We'd had supermarket deli take-out in the car coming across Aligator Alley,

and then spent the night in Key Largo. There really hadn't been anything

except -- except that figure in the dark parking lot of the Last Chance on

the Key Largo end of the Lake Surprise causeway. I hadn't worried about it

-- him -- last night, nor today on the hundred-mile run from Key Largo to

Key West.

 

There's no place to park anywhere near the old harbor, so while Maggie was

at her conference, I left the car in the Park and Ride for seventy-five

cents an hour and walked down toward Duval Street and the Non-Stop Midway.

There's no Ferris wheel, but it's got everything else for separating large

numbers of fools from substantial amounts of money.

 

Sloppy Joe's had all the doors open on both the Green and Duval street

sides and you could hear the whomp of the music way down the block. There

was a big solid man with his back to the street talking to -- to someone --

just inside the last door back on the Green street side. I could see the

familiar pipe and grin over the heavy shoulder of the man with his back to

me.

 

The big man turned as I stepped out of the blinding sunlight, and blinked

at me through rimless glasses, grinning a sudden wide grin through his

thick grey beard. "Welkommen, mynheer!" he said, putting one arm around me

and the other around the man with the pipe. Mynheer was what he called me

when he was feeling good and the demons were at bay. He spoke good if

accented French and quite a bit of German, but welkommen was almost

certainly all the Dutch heknew. I never could convince him that despite my

name, I didn't know any Dutch at all.

 

"I was just explaining to Bob here that he's going to have to buy the next

round because I've spent my last penny on that god-damned swimming pool."

I'd heard this story before and knew by now not to spoil it. "Come on up

to the house," he went on to the other man, "and I'll show it to you. My

last cent. It's stuck in the concrete around that god-damned swimming

pool."

 

He laughed a thick wheezing laugh and turned into an old fat bulldog

snuffling behind a wrought-iron gate under a poinciana tree. The sidewalk

in front of the tall frame house was covered in fallen red blossom and the

air was thick with the smell of decay. There was a man smoking a pipe

leaning on the rail of the second-floor gallery.

 

There was no breeze coming from the harbor, and the heat was stifling in

the narrow street even in the shade of the poincianas and the strangler

figs. I turned around, trying to get my bearings as the dog snuffled at the

gate. Two blocks away the tandem trailer of the Conch Train full of

brightly dressed tourists crossed the street I was on. That must be Duval.

Whitehead would be a block on the other side and the Audubon House must be

a couple of blocks that way. I set off without looking at the man on the

gallery again.

 

I'd heard Key West talked about as a Mecca for gays but while there were

rather more same-sex couples than you'd see on the street in my home town,

there were rather more of *everything* than you'd see in my home town.

Some of the MOTSS couples were obviously old "La Cage Aux Folles" types,

and others looked as if they had sneaked away on a fling. Just like the

hetero couples, and many just as garishly dressed. So much for innate gay

fashion sense. I was still dizzy from my literary hallucinations and hoped

that the moustached man on the bicycle wasn't -- nope, no such luck. He

smiled and waved when a gravel-voiced lesbian smoking a pipe called "Hey

Tom!"

 

I found a deli between the T-shirt shops on Duval and bought a beautiful

blue bottle of Cymri (that's Welch to you) mineral water, and stood

drinking it and looking at the Planet Hollywood across the street. It was

a two-story brick building no more than 25 feet wide. Key West, the Conch

Republic, is where the unusual happens with monotonous regularity. Two

nearly naked women on mopeds came around the corner. I walked back to the

Park and Ride garage and claimed the car. Over the Naval Air Station a

frigate bird wheeled. Ernest was okay, and even Tennessee Williams, but I

hoped Hunter Thompson would stay away.

 

No 30

 

--

Jim the Prophet

Licensed SubGenius Minister