Tag Archives: Dispatches from the Road

What NOT to Say to An L.A. Hooker

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Some years back, several friends and I – all contributors to this blog – took a (slightly infamous) trip across country.

Los Angeles Hookers

Ahh, yeah. L.A. Hookers. Mmm, mmm.

We drove from Atlanta to Long Beach, Calif., with a slight layover in El Paso.

In Los Angeles, and again in Las Vegas, we were stunned by the obvious availability of escorts. They advertised on posters and fliers, and there were people all over the streets shoving handbills featuring half-naked models and phone numbers imploring us to call for some fun.

So, we did.

And, while at last one of our party (not me) did partake in the pleasures of a prostitute – a story that this blog must surely share some day – we found hours of enjoyment in collecting the advertisements and calling the numbers on them. Sure, we endured a few fussing pimps along the way, but they weren’t going to track down our Georgia cell phones and besides, we were having too much fun to let a few angry vice peddlers to stop us.

So, for a chuckle, below is a selection of some of the lines recalled from those late-night calls to the mysterious, lovely ladies of the west – who don’t look anything like the girls on the posters.

  • “How much to just watch my buddy and I?”
  • “Do you serve Compton?”
  • “I’m good lookin’. Can I have a discount for that?”
  • “Since I already have everything anyway, do I really have to wear a condom?”
  • “I have a coupon that I found online.”
  • “I really just want to share a Haagen-Dazs and watch Leno.”
  • “I want to be your last stop for the night. Don’t shower.”
  • “Do you have children? Can you bring them along?”
  • “Oh, it shouldn’t be that much. I’ll be quick.”
  • “Betcha’ never played ‘Strip Axis & Allies’ under a black light before!”
  • “What’s your ‘first-timers’ rate?”
  • “I want you to teach me yoga.”
  • “This is for my grandpa. It’s kind of a ‘last request’ kind of thing. They told us we needed to start getting the family together, so I need you to come, like, now.”
  • “Would you like me to make you a copy of the tape when we’re done?”
  • “Baby, I hope you like Karo.”
  • “Are you good with kids? I’m kinda’ in a pinch here.”
  • “If you think Jackie Gleason’s sexy, you and I are going to get along fine.”
  • “I’m going to need you to be ready to lick stuff.”
  • “Can I call you Jane? And will you be a real bitch to me? Jane’s always such a bitch. God, I hate her.”
  • “I don’t really have an address. My ice cream truck is parked at 6th Street and Pacific Avenue beside the church.”
  • “How do you feel about wearing a squirrel costume?”
  • “You were pretty highly rated on Angie’s List.”
  • “I should warn you: I have a heart thing. So if anything happens, just wash me off, get your things and go.”
  • “I’m a cuddler.”
  • “What I’m really looking for is someone with a third nipple – preferably pierced.”

Did we miss anything?

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Dispatches from the Road: Into the Woods, F’ the Klan

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We went into the woods, with supremacists in pursuit.

We went into the woods, with supremacists in pursuit.

(Editor’s Note: The following contains liberal use of the “F word,” because the parties involved used the “F word” liberally. In the interest of telling the unadulterated truth as best as I remember, and as entertainingly as possible, I’ve left it as is. Salut!)

“Fuck the Klan!”

All eyes turned toward my passing Bonneville from the patrons of the impromptu market set up in front of the Georgia Peach Museum – a place that sold painted, concrete figures of robed men in pointy hats that might adorn one’s porch, as inconspicuous, as Raymond Chandler would say, as a tarantula on a slice of angel food.

In the seat next to me, Elliott (a.k.a., “BOB”) was just drawing his head back in through the passenger’s window. He stuck his cigar back in his teeth and grinned at me with a look of self-accomplishment. In my rearview, a pickup truck fishtailed as it shot from the parking lot of the hick flea market.

There are a lot of myths and stories about the Georgia Peach Museum, which stands somewhere in the gray area between western Paulding and eastern Haralson counties. It’s made the news before for its owner’s inclination to slap incendiary messages on the location’s roadside marquee, most recently for this bit of political commentary.

As a reporter in the Douglas/Paulding County area, I’d heard several accounts of the Georgia Peach Museum from staff writers and stringers on slow days around the news desk. The lore was that it had been a topless bar or strip club or some such, and to run the impolite operation out of business, the local municipal authorities had passed an ordinance prohibiting such operations. So, to maintain their business model, the bar began calling itself a museum, claimed the ta-tas were First Amendment-protected art, and went on about their day.

(Of course, if you saw this place, you’d never want to see naked the woman who’d be willing to take her clothes off in there, but that’s beside the point; I begrudge no one for getting their jollies how they will, so long as everyone involved is OK with it.)

Along with inflammatory signage, the bar also has played host to several events that included a cross in conflagration and men who have no hair.

On this particular day – a Saturday – there was a market out front. Merchants were selling large rebel banners, summoning the South to rise again and other such foolishness. I’m sure there were also knives. There are always knives.

We were on our way to our friend Kirk’s campsite out in Haralson County. His grandfather had a pretty considerable tract out there and had built a cabin/shack alongside a river that ran along the property. It was a great place to spend a night or two, out in the woods, raising all kinds of sin. (Usually, of course, we just got drunk and passed out around the fire ring, but whatever.) Kirk was leading the way in his Jeep, the windows and doors off, the wind blowing through the cab almost deafening – yet, still not so loud that he hadn’t heard Elliott bellow at the white supremacists as we passed.

And now, of course, there was this young man who was in open pursuit of us, trucking down the Haralson County blacktop.

We pulled into the dirt drive to the property. Two posts with a length of padlocked logging chain strung between them guarded entry to the long, rough, four-wheel-drive-only one lane path down to the campsite. We would park the Bonneville about halfway down, throw our gear into Kirk’s Wrangler, and ride grasping to the bars of his canoe rack for dear life the rest of the way down.

The truck pulled in behind us.

The driver was alone. Elliott and I – large figures (though I not nearly as large as Elliott’s abnormally tall, hulking mass) in long, crazed-woodman style beards with long knives clipped to our belts, climbed from the Bonneville. Kirk sprung from the Jeep and trotted up behind us.

“Jesus,” he said to Elliott. “Why did you do that, man?”

“Because I fucking hate the Klan,” Elliott growled. Couldn’t argue with that. Especially when Elliott had a knife on his hip and the number of witnesses was sparse.

Outnumbered and out-knifed, the man in the truck tossed the shifter into reverse and shot back into the road and lurched off the way he came. We unlocked the chain, drove through, and locked it back behind us.

Down at the campsite, I propped my ankle up on a stump and lit a pipe. The ankle had been rendered weak and given to twists and sprains from a break incurred in a car wreck some months earlier, and here again it was injured, leaving me invalid. This was going to be an immobile expedition for me; a chance to convalesce in nature and away from my parents’ dank, mildewy, pneumonia-inspiring basement.

Kirk, who worked as a staff photographer with me at the local daily, sorted through his assortment of lenses. Elliott rendered logs into kindling by smashing them against still-standing trees and collecting the splintered pieces that flew off. Seriously.

Then, Kirk said he wanted to take his canoe down the river a little ways and take some pictures of frogs.

“I’ll go take pictures of frogs with you, Kirk,” Elliott volunteered. It was a weird thing for a man his size who had just spent the better part of two hours beating trees into toothpicks to say, granted, but that was how he wanted to spend the close of day, and I wouldn’t begrudge him that.

He and Kirk took a canoe down the river, well out of site and earshot, leaving me at the campsite, alone with my thoughts. And our guns. And the whisky.

And, well, I got bored.

I limped over to my bag, pulled out a large plastic handle of Passport Scotch, and limped back to my chair. I unscrewed the top and took a swig. It tasted like the last time I threw up. There was a reason for that. I took another swig. And I thought about the Ku Klux Klan.

The hours grew long and late. The shadows stretched themselves out. The light began to wane. Off in the distance, I heard two solitary, staccato gunshots. I raised my bottle in their direction.

“Goodbye, Kirk,” I said. “Goodbye, Elliott.”

Fucking Klan.

Well, I thought to myself, the fellow knew there were at least three of us. And there, he’s got two. They’re going to be looking for one more. I stood, and limp/staggered around the site. A rusted metal table stood in the campsite. I sat myself behind this, facing the direction of the gunshots. I carefully loaded each firearm, cocked it, and laid it out on the table in front of me, along with the handle of Passport. I would not go gentle into that good night if that good night would not come gentle onto me.

Twilight came. So far, I’d taken up a rifle several times, endangering nothing more than a few noisy squirrels. Then, I heard footsteps rummaging through the thick leaves on the ground. I picked up a rifle – it was only a .22, but a semi-automatic with a large reservoir of shells, it could lay down a lot of fire, quickly – and I called into the darkness as my grandfather, a military policeman during World War II, had taught me.

“Halt! Who goes there?”

Elliott and I, friends since we played 10-and-under soccer together more than a decade before, knew me very well. He knew the command sounded sharp. He also knew that they had left me alone, in the woods, with nothing but booze and guns. He’d sensed trepidation coming up on the site anyway; that I was demanding that they identify themselves was all the incentive he needed to dive face-down into the leaves.

Kirk hadn’t known me so long. “Hey!” he shouted back, “it’s just us!”

“Kirk! Identify yourself!” Elliott warned.

“Huh? Why?” Kirk asked, still strolling right up to the barrel of my rifle.

“Because he’ll shoot you,” Elliott said.

“What? No.” Kirk said. He paused. He thought quickly. “It’s Kirk and Elliott!” he shouted.

“Elliott?” I called back.

“Bob!” Kirk said, invoking Elliott’s nickname – one that would not appear on the license that some Klansmen might have removed from his corpse. Atta boy, Kirk.

I laid down my gun. “You may pass.”

We never did encounter the Klan that trip. Maybe they thought better of it. Maybe they snuck in during the night and pissed in our Passport Scotch. God knows, we wouldn’t have known any different if they had. But at least it gave us something to do as we sat up most of the night, drinking, guns across our laps, each facing a different direction, waiting for the lynch mob until daybreak.

Ah, camping is so relaxing.

Hoteled

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The view from my room on the 14th floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel Atlanta - Ravinia

I am writing from the 14th floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel Atlanta – Ravinia. I know that’s what it’s called because the little box with the ethernet cable on the desk before me says that’s what it’s called. And I am paying $10 a day for the privilege of writing and posting this blog.

Room

Our room at the Crowne Plaza Atlanta -- Ravinia

I am here for a two-and-a-half-day review course my wife is taking before she takes her boards to become what I’ve begun calling a “full bird” nurse practitioner. We don’t live far away – but far enough that we wouldn’t want to drive in each morning to be at the hotel at 7; besides, we were able to get a very reasonable rate on rooms through Orbitz.

From the 14th floor – the “club level,” it turns out, though my placement on this prestigious level was more luck-of-the-draw than design – I have a view of office parks, a walking trail that, I’ve found, meanders to said office parks, and from between the office parks, a distant horizon, upon which I can watch neither sunrises nor sunsets, because my room faces north.

As are all things I encounter, it’s been a helluva stay.

High and Dry

Check-in was excellent. Check-in technically is not until 3 p.m., but we showed up at 7 a.m. for the course to start. I expected to entertain myself sleeping in the back of my minivan and sitting on a bench outside reading, but just to try I went ahead and asked if I could check-in. The registration desk was extremely helpful and polite, went ahead and allowed me to check-in early, and saved me a tremendous amount of loitering around the premises until 3.

Bathroom

The bathroom was nice. Except for the whole "not having water" thing.

As my wife attended her class, I hauled our suitcase and toiletry bag from the ManVan to the room and unpacked things. I tested the commode, and found it in excellent working order.

At around 10 that morning, my wife came up to see the room and help me make lunch plans. I found a Five Guys burgers nearby, and we placed our order online. About an hour later, I left to pick up lunch and bring it back to the room.

The address for Five Guys wasn’t found in our TomTom (of course), but I remembered well enough where it was. My memory did not serve me correctly. I found myself lost in the vicinity of Ashford-Dunwoody and Mt. Vernon roads. Long story short, I found the restaurant, got the food, and came back to the hotel.

Back in the room, my wife came up and washed her hands, saying we didn’t have a lot of water pressure. I knew that to be untrue, having used the facilities not an hour before. But, as I went to wash up before lunch, I found her description to be accurate; indeed, the water had slowed to a trickle.

A short while after lunch, it stopped altogether. But, not before I did what people occasionally have to do after a meal. I found the water had stopped when I went to flush the toilet.

I sat for almost five hours in a hotel room with a full toilet and no water with which to flush it. No water to drink, none to wash hands, or take one of those nice, long, super-hot hotel showers, what with their endless supply of hot water. I called down to the front desk to make sure that it would be restored soon, and the clerk told me that “engineering had messed something up,” and that it’d be back on “shortly.” Shortly is never shortly enough when you’re stuck in a hotel room with a bowl full of excrement.

Hair

At first, I thought this was a stray pencil mark on the door to the bathroom, too. It's not. It's a hair, at about eye level. And it's neither mine nor my wife's.

At last, I turned on the faucet and it sounded like water wanted to come out. I figured there was probably a lot of air in the pipes, given how long the water was off and that we were very nearly at the highest point in the hotel. I figured I’d do the engineering guys a favor and leave my tap on until an undisturbed flow of water was able to come out.

With the faucet in the sink and shower gurgling, and with nothing better to do, I finally just lay down on the bed and read until I dozed off. When I awoke, I was pretty sure that my wife had come back to the room and was taking a shower. I can’t say why precisely I thought this, except that I was asleep and I’m not at my most rational when I’m asleep, but that’s what I thought, and I figured she’d wake me up when she was done, and so went back to sleep.

Stuck Underground

Parking was a problem. The hotel has a three-level underground parking deck. It also hosts large conferences and seminars, like the one my wife was attending, and has nearly 500 guest rooms. Three floors of subterranean parking are insufficient.

Returning with lunch from Five Guys, I occupied the last available space in the deck, way down underground on the last level. It was a narrow one, wedged between an SUV and a concrete support. But, my options being limited, I took it, and backed in the minivan.

I tried to open the driver’s side door, and the gap permitted, even as it rested against the cement column, was insufficient for any human being to exit. We’re talking about a four-inch gap here. It wasn’t happening. And I was even closer on the passenger’s side with the SUV. So, I gathered my sack of burgers, my wife’s sweet tea (Five Guys were out of lids, so it was just a cup of tea), and slid open the back passenger’s side door and wedged my fat ass out and in between the van and SUV. I had to fold in my rearview mirror to make it past. Got stuck a couple of times. It was bad.

The Pharmacy and the Old Hag

When I woke up from my nap, the water roaring in the bathroom, I had one conscious thought: deodorant. I’d neglected to pack any. Nor a razor.

ViewAtNight

The view from our hotel room at night.

Friday night, after her seminar let out for the evening, my wife and I went to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, then promptly got lost going to a movie. In need of a place to turn around, I fortuitously pulled into a CVS Pharmacy. Huzzah!

Leaving my wife to work out directions with Google Maps, I dashed inside for a pack of cheap razors and some deodorant.

There was nothing spectacular about the pharmacy. I found my deodorant, my razors, and proceeded to the checkout. As I sat my things on the counter and the clerk reached for them to ring them up, an old woman stepped beside me and unloaded an armful of Ricola cough drops and Dr. Scholl’s insoles on top of my order.

I looked down at the old woman and said, “You know I’m not paying for these, right?”

She didn’t answer, but asked the clerk where she could find mouthwash. The clerk told her to wait a moment, please. The clerk rang up my order and I fumbled with my debit card to pay, and stood there dumbly while the woman behind me kept firing off questions. Finally, the clerk interrupted her to tell me the card reader was asking if I’d like any money back.

“Sorry,” I said. “I’m a little distracted. Where I’m from, people don’t usually go and drop an armful of crap on top of your items.”

“I’m not bothering you!” the old woman said.

“Back up, hag,” I muttered.

“You’re rude,” she said after a pause.

“Yeah,” I said. I stepped toward her a little, standing over her. “I’m the worst man you’re going to meet all night.”

She backed up. I took my sack, thanked the clerk, and walked out.

Other Strokes of Tony Luck

There are, of course, other little things that had to happen during my stay so far, including…

Bug

These little guys were on the wall in the morning to greet us

  • We stayed on one of the “Club Levels,” which was purely a stroke of luck at check-in that that’s what they gave me. Alas, though this level was intended to be an ornate and exclusive sanctuary, it afforded no working ice machine. (I thought this could be owed to the whole no water thing, but hours after the water came back on, there was still no ice.) I spotted a maintenance guy on our level, presumably checking out the water problem, and mentioned to him that the ice machine was on the fritz, too. He shrugged and said, “OK.”
  • Noise! Although this hotel heavily promoted its “quiet zone” policy, I awoke Saturday morning to what sounded like someone pressure washing the adjoining room. Now, I would take this back completely, because the noise may well have been from an adjacent lot, but it really sounded like someone on the premises was pressure washing, giving the periodic roar, as of a hose being turned against a surface, back and forth, and I think it was rather related to the reforestation they were doing in the lobby that morning. The place is like a jungle.
  • Cable television, we had. A directory of all the channels, we didn’t. And we didn’t have some local channels, like WSB, either, it turned out, which was odd. There was an HBO guide on the nightstand, but search though I did (I was in the room for DAYS), I could find no HBO. Watched a lot of CNN, though. Enough to drive a man to jump off the faux balcony the room has, which really only serves to obstruct the view and, I guess, look architecturally interesting from outside or something.

In summary, I can’t say this is the worst hotel in the area, because I haven’t stayed in any others near here, nor can I say that it’s the worst I’ve ever stayed in, because it’s not. All in all, I wouldn’t say it was a bad stay. I sat outside in the garden behind the hotel and smoked my pipe, enjoyed an extremely comfortable hotel room, enjoyed reasonably friendly staff (the bellhop stand was especially polite, always smiling and greeting me when I passed), and enjoyed a pretty neat view compared to what I get at home.

Dispatches from the Road: Nearly Dead in Panama City Beach – Part II

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Panama City Beach

Joey, Cameron and Surfin' Scott, making their way up the beach.

(Administrator’s Note: This blog is the second of a two-part series. Be sure to read Dispatches from the Road: Nearly Dead in Panama City Beach — Part I as well.)

It’s morning – God only knows what time in the morning – and we’ve woken up and emerged from our tent into the sunlight, where I’ve given Surfin’ Scott (who wouldn’t leave the tent in the morning because he was scared I’d stab him if he startled me) crap for using sun block, which was a bad idea on my part and a brilliant one on his.

After a breakfast of cold Gwantly hotdogs straight from the cooler, with condiments pilfered from a QuikTrip, we headed to the beach with the surfboards.

I do not surf. It’s not been something I ever wanted to do. I tried skiing once, and didn’t take to it. Surfing is for pretty boys with bleached hair. Like Cameron. And to a lesser extent with the hair thing, Joey.

At St. Andrews State Park near Panama City Beach, Fla., the beach is sheltered from the gulf by a long wall of piled rocks that juts out into the blue water. As the tide races around this barrier, it creates some rather impressive waves for redneck surfers who mostly spend a lot of time lying on the bellies on their surfboards out in the water, talking to each other about how cool they are because they surf but who rarely actually, you know, surf.

Snapshots of Agony – Or, the Coriolis Effect

I had my camera. It was new – my first digital camera – and I’d bought the warranty from Wolf Camera that would replace it, so long as I at least came back with the strap that remained around my wrist as, say, a bull at Pamplona snagged it on a horn as it thundered past me. With a limitless supply of photos on a warranty-protected device, I was becoming quite the little shutterbug. I took the camera out into the water and snapped pictures of Cameron and Joey with their surfboards, then retired the camera back on a towel on the beach and enjoyed the warm salt water, the buoyancy of which felt good against my injured ankle.

It was amusing to watch Cameron and Joey chase waves and try to mount one, jumping up eagerly on their boards as the crest raced past them, leaving them behind.

A weak swimmer, and injured to boot, a stayed fairly close to shore, as Cameron and Joey paddled further out to catch the waves as they lurched from the sea.

Panama City Beach surfing

Joey and Cameron, playing in the waves with their toys.

At last, Cameron caught one. And just like that old adage about a dog who chases cars, he didn’t really know what to do once he had it.

I watched him zip toward me, standing proudly on his board. As he drew closer, it seemed evident that he intended to ride this thing out. He’d take it to Orlando if it’d let him. So, I cut to my left. Cameron, with little control over his board, did the same. I cut right. Cameron did likewise. He drew closer. I zigged, he zigged. I zagged, he zagged. At last, just a few feet from me, he lost all control. Cameron went to my right, and the board passed to my left.

Well, it turns out that surfers are actually tethered to their boards by about a six-foot leash, which fastens to the end of the board and around the ankle of the surfer. And that six-foot leash was doing as it was intended, holding Cameron and his board together, even as it clotheslined me in the surf.

The Coriolis effect describes the circumstances that cause something that is turning to go faster, such as how the water in a bathtub spins into a vortex when you pull the plug, or even how it feels like a car is accelerating when on one of those spiraling highway onramps.

It also applies when you have a surfboard wrapped around your throat.

The leash caught me beneath the chin. I grabbed at it, the way a victim grabs at his attackers garrote, which is to say, futilely. The surfboard swung around, my throat serving as the fulcrum, and lapped me once, then twice. By then, the cord was diminished sufficiently to allow the board to hit me in the face. The board wrapped itself around its own leash, tightening its noose.

The blow knocked me off my feet. Because a surfboard floats, it stayed near the surface. My mass did not; and so the experience was somewhat less like choking and more like hanging, as the board kept my head near the surface and gravity pulled my body down into the weedy depths of the Gulf of Mexico.

At last, struggling for air, the world becoming encased in a black fog around me, I felt something: the bottom! I kicked against it and propelled myself up and backward. A wave caught me, pulling the board and me to a slightly reduced depth. I could stand! I found my feet and pressed them into service, heaved myself out of the water and pulled at the choker around my neck, gasping.

I don’t know what was happening to Cameron during all of this. I presume he was upside down in the water, as close to death as I was. He’d led me to believe no different. But he emerged from the waves just as the sweet salt air at last filled my starving lungs. So, I tried to kill him with his surfboard.

Land, Ho

Back on terra forma, limping, head aching from the merciless sun and temporary lack of oxygen, and my flesh starting to sear, we showered in a bathhouse near our site and planned to hit the town that night.

We were going to make a show of it, too. We’d invested in an order of Jolly Roger flags from a cheap online flag site. The flags they sent – black, sure, and with the skull and crossbones – also had emblazoned around them the legend, “Commitment to Excellence.” Which seemed a very peculiar thing to put on a pirate flag. The site made it right by us, however, sending us a double order of proper pirate flags, and so we had plenty. We placed poles on the running bars of the Jeep, flying a Jolly Roger off one side and, as a conversation starter, a “Commitment to Excellence” flag off the other. We affixed a Jolly Roger to the Nighthawk 750 as well, which I insisted on riding, despite my sprained ankle, because of the hell we went through to get it there after damned near losing it in Eufaula.

Toys

How did we ever have such wonderful toys?

Now, it should be mentioned that none of us can recall what happened to Surfin’ Scott during this part of the trip. I don’t believe he was surfing, it haven grown dark. But, we can say definitively that he was not in the Jeep, nor was he on the motorcycle with me. The very prospect of such a thing would have terrified him beyond his senses.

As the sun set, we hit “the Strip,” driving slow up and down with the other cruisers in heavy traffic. Cameron had, in a stack between his seat and his console, a series of signs on poster board that, like the “Commitment to Excellence” flag, were supposed to be conversation starters.

The signs included, “Honk if You’re Horny,” and “I’m Single and Well-Hung,” which was frankly a bold-faced lie on Cameron’s part, but we’d let him have his fun.

This was before Panama City Beach had become an endless stretch of high-rise condominiums from one side of town to the other. At the time, there was still an active – if rickety – boardwalk and an active college party scene, with a vast nightclub that hosted wet T-shirt contests that never turned out to be worth the cover charge.

Somehow, the signs and honking got noticed, and three girls accepted an impromptu invitation to hop on up into the Jeep. They stood in the backseat, shouting, hollering, holding up Cameron’s “I’m Single and Well-Hung” sign. Cameron and Joey were having the time of their lives, glancing up the girls’ shirts as they partied hard in Cameron’s Jeep.

And then, behind me, a loud voice cut through the bacchanalia: “You in the Jeep! Pull on over.” I glanced in the rearview of my Honda at the lightbar of the Panama City Beach Police cruiser.

Cameron pulled into a lot. I rode a little further down and parked. The girls climbed out of the Jeep and lined up alongside it. The cop gave Joey a lot of grief, it looked like from my safe distance. Finally, he let Joey get out of the Jeep and walk away. With a lack of excitement and concern that kind of startled me, Joey strolled over to my bike and said, “Yeah, Cameron’s going to jail.”

Joey explained that the first problem was the girls, who were not wearing seatbelts. Then, the girls, it turned out, were age 15, 15 and 16. So, any thoughts we had of getting them to come back to our campsite were going to be a problem. Also, Cameron had that whole court-ordered class-thing that he had to attend, and had his name in computers as being someone who had to be good and probably not, you know, cross state lines for an established period of time. So there was that.

We waited to see what might unfold, unable to help Cameron. I hung out to see if I needed to ride Joey back to our campsite, should they impound the Jeep, and Joey waited to see if they’d let him drive it away if Cameron was led away in cuffs. Finally, the cop pulled away – without Cameron – and Joey approached the Jeep. The officer said he would let Cameron off with a warning, if he took the girls back to where he picked them up (why he let Cameron continue to ride around with them at all was perplexing, but I think the officer just didn’t want to deal with the paperwork). Apparently, they were staying in a condo near there. With their parents. Since there weren’t enough seatbelts in the Jeep for everybody, Joey was the odd man out, and the poor lad went from a Jeep with the top off and three cute girls in the back on the Panama City Beach strip to riding down back roads on the bitch seat of a fat man on a Honda.

But, hey, at least we still had our Jolly Roger – and our commitment to excellence.

Words with Friends

While students – and, later, loiterers – at the University of West Georgia, Joey and Cameron devised a game called “Phrases” or “Fragments” or something like that. The idea was, you walk along, having an innocent conversation, until some interloper comes within earshot, at which point the conversation would take a violent turn into the macabre.

“Did you ever get that rash cleared up?” “Nah – doctor said he’d never seen it before. Told me to come back if it started oozing worse.”

Please Leave This Door Closed - Tanks

A helpful sign from the locals posted in the shower facilities at the St. Andrews State Park campground. They were right -- you never know what kind of trouble is on the other side. (Tanks for the advice!)

“…so, after I found the pictures online that Bobby told us about, I was like, there’s no way I’m calling her back, but then I slapped my head and went, the hell I’m not!”

And so forth.

In the bathhouse down the lane from our campsite, Cameron and I retired to shower. (Not in the same stall. Not that he didn’t try.) I was badly burned, practically unable to walk, and pretty severely dehydrated. Also, it appeared someone had taken a shit in my shower stall. Damned Florida.

We spoke until we heard someone else enter the shower area. Then, we turned on the “Statements” or “Sentences” or whatever the hell they call it. In the shape I was in, I somehow utterly missed that Cameron left the shower – and that a stranger had occupied his stall.

Said stranger heard all kinds of strange things. I confessed to killing a hooker. In gruesome detail. And then I spoke about how I felt no different doing it than when I killed my whole family. I speculated how long it’d be until the bodies were discovered. I then told Cameron what I was going to do to him when I got him back to the tent, and that if Joey and Surfin’ Scott had anything to say about it, I swear to God, they’d end up just like that dead hooker, so help me.

The stranger said nothing. Nothing at all. As I collected my bath supplies and noticed that the sandals beneath the door of the stall next to mine were no longer Cameron’s, I chuckled. I didn’t apologize. I didn’t try to explain anything. After all, it’s a dangerous world.

Home at Last

We left about midday, packing up and heading back home.

I reclined as best as I could in the passenger seat of the Jeep, still baking beneath the southern sun, riding for hours on a cloudless day in a car with no roof.

Somewhere near Columbus, afraid that I would soon lose consciousness, I placed a call. I asked for aloe, for acetaminophen, and for peace. And I promised myself, I would never be sunburned again.

Promises are made to be broken.

Dispatches from the Road: Nearly Dead in Panama City Beach – Part I

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Panama City Beach surfing

Surfin' Scott, Joey and Cameron, ready to hit the surf in Panama City Beach

I’d never asked my parents for much. And they’d certainly obliged.

But, with a weak signal on my cell phone, I placed a call from somewhere in Alabama. My father answered the line.

“I need your help, please,” I said. “Would you be willing to run down to the drug store? I need some aloe. Desperately. And, would you mind putting it in the fridge for me when you get home?

Oh, and also, some Tylenol. One of the big bottles.”

An old Mexican once told us that you can’t almost die – either you’re dead, or your alive; there’s no in between. We laughed. No, there’s definitely a gray area between life and death.

Returning from a weekend at Panama City Beach, struggling for breath, battered and barely able to walk, and badly burned, I was in just such a gray area.

Now Departing: Good Times

A couple of days earlier, I sat for hours in Cameron’s Jeep in the old city parking lot in downtown Douglasville; the top off, doors gone, lounging in the late springtime sun while Cameron completed a court-ordered class that we’ll let him tell you about in greater detail at some later time.

Panama City Beach

Our destination: a bygone era.

I flipped through the pages of a New Yorker, read some from a book I brought with me, and waited. I watched folks wander up and down the forlorn city sidewalk near the Old Douglas County Courthouse (I capitalize “Old” because, well, that’s what it’s called, according to the turquoise neon sign on the front). Life was good. The next week, I would be starting a new job, helming a weekly newspaper in Dallas after years of working part-time for minimum wage at the daily in Douglas County. I was excited. I would have money – adult money – and health insurance. Paid vacation. My own free-standing executive desk with a large American flag on a pole behind it. The works.

When Cameron emerged from his class, grinning from ear to ear and jogging down the sidewalk to his waiting Jeep, everything was set. It was go time.

The plan was hatched days before. I had to work, Cameron had his court-ordered class that he couldn’t miss – per the terms of his probation – but, Joey having no job and no court-ordered class, was free well before then, as was Surfin’ Scott, who is not to be confused with Pimpin’ Scott, who has been pimpin’ since pimpin’ was pimpin’, which is apparently circa 2003.

Joey and Surfin’ Scott, who along with not being Pimpin’ Scott, also was someone I’d not met but who had heard a great deal about me, left earlier that day for Panama City Beach. Their surfboards stretched between them, occupying the distance between the windshield and back window of Joey’s Camaro, so that it was as though each had their own traveling compartment in the car. In the back was my tent and some camping gear.

The plan was, Joey and Surfin’ Scott would embark early, establish our campsite at St. Andrew’s State Park, and get in some sun and surf while I completed my last day at the Sentinel and Cameron attended his court-ordered class. Then, Cameron and I would leave that afternoon, arriving at Panama City Beach sometime in the small hours of the morning.

We had, in tow, my dad’s old motorcycle trailer and my ‘83 Honda Nighthawk 750 motorcycle, with its purple and black paint scheme that matched the purple and black helmet that I didn’t think I’d wear very much while riding up and down “the Strip.” We’d gone ahead and removed the top and doors to the Jeep, having seen the weather reports for Panama City Beach and determining that we wouldn’t need them anyway. And so, we pulled out of Douglasville with our hair blowing in the wind, our gear in the back and the motorcycle hitched to the rear, heading out for Panama City Beach and the grand adventure that awaited us.

Going to Pieces in Eufaula

As we rode, we kept hearing an ominous “thunk! thunk!” from the rear of the Jeep. Stopping for gas, I inspected the straps securing the motorcycle to the trailer, and found everything to be tight. Must be the wind, we figured, and proceeded on our way.

We motored past the dark windows and quiet front porches of downtown Eufaula, Ala. – one of those towns you pass through and long to live in, with its stately old homes and impressively manicured lawns. On the outskirts of town, as we approached the bridge spanning Lake Eufaula, the source of the “thunk!” at last rendered itself known. With one last mighty “thunk!”, the Jeep lurched, and I looked over my shoulder to see the trailer, with its motorcycle attached, somewhat skipping along behind the Jeep.

Now, for all Cameron’s many faults – and there are many – I’ll give him credit for two distinct areas of skill: he is extremely adept at grooming himself and keeping himself fit, and he is a master at not panicking, even when everyone else is. The picture of Pimpin’ Scott wearing nothing but a McDonald’s bag? Only Cameron could’ve pulled off taking that picture without shrieking and dashing from the room. The heaving a trashcan full of ice water on me as I lay naked and splay-legged in the bathroom floor? Only Cameron kept his eyes on the prize and completed the assault – without shrieking and dashing from the room.

And here, again, Cameron kept his wits about him, deftly navigating the Jeep and, miraculously, the trailer that clung by a single safety chain, not unlike a severed leg still held to the person of its owner by a small strip of sinew, safely to the side of the road. I dashed out into traffic, seized the trailer by its tongue and hauled it in the last few feet after the chain gave way.

The ball itself had come off, still lodged in the socket on the tongue of the trailer. The nut which secured it to the trailer was perhaps mere feet from us, or had been lost some miles back; there was no way of knowing in the dark. Beginning to make plans, Cameron and I took note of the rather astonishing number of dead alligators, flattened across the highway in a rather obvious path, as it seemed they were departing from the marsh on the edge of the lake right along the roadway where we sat and playing gator-Frogger across the road.

We hatched our plan – gators also hatch from eggs – and, securing the latch on the trailer’s tongue with a padlock so as to prevent theft, we sprinted back into down in the Jeep. Surely, we reasoned, there was a Wal-Mart, and lo, a Wal-Mart there was, and blessed be, it was 24-hours. We purchased a new ball, a new adjustable wrench – and a spool of super-strength black duct tape – and rushed back out to the bike and trailer along the highway south of town.

I re-bolted the ball to the Jeep, and we wrapped the nut in duct tape to secure it to the tow bar of the Jeep and prevent the nut from turning, and reattached the trailer, on our way once more, feeling somehow blessed that a potential catastrophe turned out as well as it did.

Hallelujah.

“We got this,” Cameron said as he brought the Jeep back up to speed and we pressed onward to Panama City Beach.

Into the Panhandle

We knew that the days in Panama City Beach promised to be warm and sunny, but we’d not anticipated the nights would be a kind of cool that would turn nipple-blue freezing when riding at highway speeds in a Jeep with no roof or doors.

I was shaking so bad, I spilled my tin of gas station canned herring down my shirt.

Cameron in Jeep

Cameron -- during warmer, sunnier times on that trip

We crossed the state line into Florida, both of us huddled as close as possible to the dashboard, the heat on full-blast and giving very little warmth to the ominous night, without jackets or even a shirt with long sleeves.

I don’t recall the time when we arrived at St. Andrews State Park. It was late. Or rather, early. And dark. We rode softly into the park, past the sleeping canvas tents and dark cars. Along a narrow connecting road, along either side of which was swamp, we heard a familiar sound: “thunk!” Cameron stopped, and I cursed. I snatched the adjustable wrench out of the floorboard of the Jeep (which, being red, had always rather reminded me of my granddaddy’s old Farmall tractor), and leapt out of the raised cab of the all-terrain vehicle.

I landed fine. It was when I took a step that there was a problem. My foot – my left one, where I keep my bad and often-broke ankle – landed rather unevenly on the edge of the pavement. As Cameron would explain later, “I didn’t know what’d happened; Tony was there, then suddenly, he wasn’t.”

I hit the side of the road and rolled helplessly and in agony down the bank into the swamp. I called for help as I tried to drag myself up with handfuls of weeds and sand to no avail. I saw movement in the lights of the Jeep, and Cameron’s silhouette against the side of the vehicle above me. I begged for help out of the tall, moist grasses and weeds, terrified of the alligators, spiders and snakes that no doubt lurked all about me. Above me, Cameron stood and asked, “Are you OK?” not daring to venture further for fear of the alligators, spiders and snakes that no doubt lurked all about me.

I dragged myself up, one handful of dirt and rotten organic matter at a time, out of the swamp and up the bank. I found the wrench in the dark and, on one foot and without a word to Cameron, issued the ball and tow bar a vicious beating. I hopped back to the passenger’s side of the Jeep and pulled myself into a seat. Cameron climbed in beside me.

“What happened?” he asked.

I glowered at him. “I hurt myself,” I said. “Drive.”

My New Surfin’ Acquaintance

We located the campsite and pulled our gear out of the back of the Jeep. I sat in a chair and sought to examine my ankle with a flashlight. Cameron dozed in the Jeep. I have no idea why. Said he wanted to be along or something. The hell with him. I was hurt. I was mad. To hell with all of you.

I finally hopped over and nudged him (probably more like a poke – a violent poke) with my Maglite. He insisted he wasn’t asleep. I told him I didn’t give a fuck, I’m going in the tent and going to sleep.

Surfin' Scott

Surfin' Scott -- a man who was happy to see morning.

We unzipped the tent and found Joey and Surfin’ Scott inside, asleep. As is the custom when two heterosexual men share a sleeping space, Joey was at one end of the tent, which the box said could sleep six or eight people, and Surfin’ Scott was at the other. Both were dead to the world.

I fished my Bowie knife out of my sack and laid down in the tent between Cameron – who quite naturally took the spot alongside Joey – and Surfin’ Scott, whom I’d never actually met. (You must understand that, when nothing separates you and the world put a thin sheet of plastic canvas, and you know that it is an especially dangerous world beyond that canvas, sleeping unarmed is simply a fool-hearted way of passing your slumbering hours.) I clutched my knife to my chest, propped my injured extremity on the sack at my feet, and turned myself off for a few hours.

When I awoke, sunlight was streaming in from the screen skylight at the apex of the tent. Cameron still slumbered next to me, sleeping on his stomach, facing his left, with his hands tucked under his pelvis. Beyond, Joey slept the exact same way. Weird. To my right, Surfin’ Scott’s sleeping bag lay empty – though Surfin’ Scott had not left the building.

I found him balled up in the corner, his knees to his chest, watching me. It was strange. I said, “Mornin’.”

He asked if I was Tony. I told him that I was. He asked me if I was awake. I told him that, yes, I was. He asked if it’d be OK if he stepped past me so he could leave the tent. I said he was welcome to do that, if he so desired.

Turns out, the only stories Cameron and Joey tell about me are the “crazy” ones. The ones about how they found me asleep on a futon one morning, holding a knife in one hand and “The Collected Works of Nietzsche” in the other. The ones about how I ran down on foot an SUV full of frat boys who shouted, “Sherlock Holmes is a faggot!” out the window as they passed me, in my overcoat and hat, smoking a pipe. The ones about how I kept a weapon within reach of every seat in the basement where I lived – a sledge hammer behind the recliner, a tire iron under the couch, a bush blade beside the armchair, and a revolver in the drawer of the desk behind which I sat whenever I had company.

So, when Surfin’ Scott awoke early, eager to hit the early morning tide, he found between himself and the exit a large, sleeping, bearded man, holding a Bowie knife against his breast – a man who kept himself substantially armed, who had no qualms about taking on an SUV full of college kids, who had a tendency to react to disturbances by stabbing and stomping them. And so, he decided to sit perfectly still, and not make a noise, until he was sure it was safe to pass.

As we all awoke and stumbled out into the morning sun, I scratched my furry chest and clawed at the sand that was itching my beard and tried to put weight on my injured ankle. Surfin’ Scott sat on the edge of a picnic table, liberally applying sun block, as the instructions on the bottle told him he should.

“Sun block?” I asked.

“Yeah – you want some?” he said.

“Pussy,” I said, and limped away.

I knew better. But the timing of landing the punch with that word won over my rational side. Sometimes, you do what’s best for you, and sometimes, hell, you just do it for the lulz.Surfin’ Scott, Joey and Cameron, ready to hit the surf in Panama City Beach

Read more in tomorrow’s exciting adventure: Dispatches from the Road: Nearly Dead in Panama City Beach – Part II!

Dispatches from the Road: Kissing Cousins. Almost

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El Paso at Night

El Paso at night. The dark parts are Mexico.

Cameron, Scott, Tony and I had made the 20-hour non-stop drive from Douglasville, Ga., to El Paso, Texas, without stopping for anything but gas. One of those stops was at a truck stop, which, in a matter of minutes, became Cameron’s 20th (or some other ridiculously high number) building that he’d “conquered.”  (I’ll leave Cameron to share this shame with you at a later time.)

But that’s another story for another day when we all have health insurance and can afford to see a psychologist, especially Cameron.  No, make that especially Scott.  Although Tony’s pretty crazy, so he’s probably the one that needs to see a shrink most desperately. Well, we all four should seek out a mental health professional at some point, but since that’s not a financial option right now, I think putting our thoughts out on the Internet for everyone to read is probably the best option.

Anyway, we arrived in El Paso around 5 or 6 in the afternoon and navigated through the maze of 7/11 convenience stores to our destination, Cameron’s uncle’s house, whom we shall call Uncle Rick. Uncle Rick was married to Aunt Nancy and they had a 12-year-old daughter — Cameron’s cousin — Trixie. (The names here have been changed to avoid allegations of libel. If you’d been there, you’d know what we were talking about, but you weren’t — but you should’ve been. Either way, no one was innocent, but everyone had fun.) Cameron’s grandfather, “Opa,” which we were told was Hungarian for Grandfather but might have been some sort of ethnic slur, also lived there. They were all really great people and their hospitality was unmatched.

We went to dinner and then out to the top of a small mountain to check out some of the beautiful scenery that El Paso had to offer. As we walked and talked we noticed that Trixie was very smitten with Cameron. Nothing too unusual, though; little girls will often have a crush on an older boy, especially one as adorable as Cameron. And it wasn’t as though the two had grown up together, as Cameron’s time in El Paso as a boy was fleeting compared to the criminal record he’s racked up in Douglasville. So, naturally we made fun of Cameron at every chance we got. When we returned to the house we sat in the garage and talked for hours and drank Uncle Rick’s beer until one of the drunk neighbors came over and told Cameron that it was “impossible to almost die,” after overhearing one of our stories in which Cameron almost died. Tony explained later that he’d refrained from beating the man because, after all, it was our first day on the trip and if he got his clothes all bloody then that’d throw off his wardrobe for the whole journey and he’d run out of clothes a day early.  Something no one wanted to happen.

Uncle Rick summoned Tony into a different part of the garage, presumably to show him some of the cool collectibles he had acquired over the years.  Tony was quite excited about this because, like Uncle Rick, he too was old and he and Uncle Rick had really hit it off, having a good bit in common.

Kissing Cousins

The happy couple taking a friendly family stroll.

“You know, Trixie really likes her cousin Cameron,” Uncle Rick said, his fifth or sixth or … twelfth … beer in his hand.

“Well yes I can see that she’s very fond of him. Cameron’s a nice kid. We all like Cameron,” Tony replied.

“No.  I mean she really likes her cousin,” he replied.

“Yeah,” Tony said. “Ummm, we’d noticed. I think she’s just glad to see him again. It’s been a while.”

Uncle Rick smiled. “It’s OK by me,” he said. Tony looked around for something else unusual that he could ask about to change the conversation. Anything would do. Hey, he’d ask, is that a door knob?

I was not aware of this conversation because I had just returned from the bathroom I had flooded. We’re very poor houseguests.

“There was already toilet paper in the bowl.  All I did was flush it down,” I said.  But, as is usually the case when I flood a bathroom, nobody believed me.

With a load of toilet water soaked towels in the washer and most everyone intoxicated past the legal limit we retired for the night. Scott commandeered a couch in the living room, and Tony had a military surplus cot from an old M.A.S.H. unit that he swore someone had died on, while Cameron and I stretched out on two other cots placed cozily next to each other in the middle of the room.  Tony and Scott would later be repaid for taking the good beds in El Paso by being forced to share tiny, soiled hotel beds with each other for the rest of the trip — something Tony still hasn’t quite gotten over.

As Cameron and I lay next to each other with our shirts off (it’s really hot in El Paso — like surface of the sun hot, which is not Burt Reynolds’ hot, but close), Trixie came into the living room. She saw a shirtless Cameron with probably a hint of a sunburn said “Cameron! I’m going to put lotion on your back!”

Scott laughed so hard I thought his giant head was going to explode and create a small mushroom cloud over El Paso. Cameron laughed a “what have I gotten myself into?” laugh. Naturally, I high-fived Cameron, because that’s what you do if you think your buddy is going to score. I mean, it was only Day One, and Tony had considered beating a man to death, Scott’s head was about to burst and Cameron was about to get a rub-down from his prepubescent cousin! This was destined to be the best. Trip. Ever.

Trixie returned and hopped up on the cot alongside Cameron. “Are you ready?” she giggled, squirting the bottle on his back. Cameron smiled — and shuddered.

“Oops!” she said, “I put too much.” She giggled some more. “But that’s OK; I did it on purpose!”

Tony immediately fell asleep as a defense mechanism, similar to how people in horrific accidents go into shock and can’t recall anything about what happened. He swears that’s the last thing he remembers from the night. As far as he remembers, we arrived in El Paso, ate at a Bavarian restaurant and drove immediately to Los Angeles. Nothing else.

Trixie ran into the kitchen to get some paper towels and Cameron just laughed into his pillow. Or maybe he was crying. I couldn’t tell. But I was having a great time. Surprisingly (or maybe not so much), it was the most action any of us got from any women during the whole two weeks.

I stand corrected: it was the most action any of us got for free during the whole two weeks. Cameron had a real good time in Vegas — and all it cost him was a couple of Jeep payments. But, again, we’ll let him share that shame at a later time.

Maybe when we’re in group together. Probably on the mandate of a court order. Either way, it’s going to be great!

Odds are, Trixie’s flirtations were nothing of the sort; she was just happy to be with her hero cousin again. And, naturally, we can think of nothing funnier than the idea of Cameron getting pinned down by his young kin — even if Tony, as his attorney, steadfastly advised against it. Either way, nothing happened.

But then, we did go to sleep sometime…

Dispatches From the Road: Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

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Burt's handprints

'To the public who made this all possible." <SWOON!>

Oh how those seven little words have changed our lives forever.

A limo passes by Adam Sandler’s character, Happy Gilmore, and Gilmore says, “Woah, must be Burt Reynolds or somethin’!”  Seems fairly innocuous doesn’t it?  What began as four friends quoting a movie line whenever a limo passed by has somehow morphed into a semi-serious obsession in which our underwear (if we were wearing any) would be ripped off and hurled into the direction of any limo which may or may not have contained Burt Reynolds.

Unfortunately we did not get to show our support for Mr. Reynolds very often by hurling underpants toward him (due to the fact that none of us wanted to get arrested — again), so we had to devise other ways to show our true colors.  Tony, Cameron, Scott, and I would regularly attend trivia nights at local coffee shops. Night after night, week after week, when asked for our team name we proudly wrote down “The Douglasville Chapter of the Burt Reynolds Fan Club.”  If there was ever a question that we didn’t know the answer to we would generally write down anything about Burt or something from one of his many popular movies, assuming that it just had to be the correct answer.  I mean, why would anyone ask a trivia question that did not involve Burt Reynolds?

In all seriousness, I do like Burt Reynolds.  In fact, I have seen Smokey and the Bandit 20 or 30 times.  Part of that is due to the fact that I didn’t have cable growing up and TBS was one of the few channels that came in clearly on my TV.  But, I really do like the movie.  So when Tony, Cameron, Scott, and I decided that we were taking a driving tour of the United States and would be spending time in Los Angeles we made it our mission to find, photograph, touch and drool all over Burt Reynolds’ star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Maybe it was the 20 straight hours of driving to El Paso that made us delirious, or the noxious fumes from my constant farting, but whatever it was we became more and more obsessed with Burt on our long drive through the deserts of the American Southwest on our way to the sacred star of Burton Leon Reynolds Jr.  We even wrote a fan letter that, if ever published, will most certainly result in a restraining order.

Naturally, we would have gotten to Los Angeles much sooner had “The Bandit” been driving the 1989 Pontiac Bonneville, but we got there soon enough being chauffeured “The Tony,” sans Snowman.  After settling into our hotel next to the liquor store and the gas station with the bullet proof glass in the not-so-nice part of Long Beach, Calif., we began to plot our adventures for the upcoming four days.  In between getting naked and dousing each other with ice water (please read Dispatches from the Road: Icing the Bear), we decided to head out with our map — four wise men, following a star.

West Hollywood

West Hollywood -- the happiest place on Earth.

As we motored east, we encountered a sign that said “Welcome to West Hollywood.”  One can only imagine our excitement as we closed in on the western half of Hollywood.  However, Hollywood was not quite as we pictured it. There were rainbow flags on every streetlamp and we passed several shops with leather clad nearly naked mannequins in the storefronts.  Then we passed the Out of the Closet Thrift Store.  We thought the street decor was a bit unusual, but being that we were four males crammed in a sedan for days and sleeping two to a bed in a Holiday Inn, the same sex mannequins and rainbows didn’t bother us in the least.  Heck, we felt right at home. As we passed a billboard with two shirtless men embracing I looked down at our map to find Hollywood Boulevard.  As I scoured the map I noticed that not only were we not near Hollywood Boulevard, we weren’t even in Hollywood.  We were in West Hollywood, a completely separate city. As my research would later reveal to me, West Hollywood may actually be the gayest city in the U.S.

We took the time to visit a small street cafe, where we sat and sipped sodas while watching men in Daisy Duke shorts with tiny dogs Rollerblade past, their shirts tied up suggestively over their superfluous nipples.

We were both very excited -- even though Cameron wasn't real clear on who Jim Nabors was.

Sadly, we had to leave “WeHo” in our search for the star of Burt Reynolds, but we all still have fond memories of the rainbow flags and leather sporting mannequins.  When we finally reached Hollywood Boulevard, we started walking up the street looking at every plaque with the hope that it might be the “unreachable star” of Burt.  “Is that it!?!” one of us would shout.  “No it’s Cher. Again,” another would reply.  At one point the guys thought I found it because of my excitement upon reading the name on the concrete but when they approached a bewildered Scott said “Who’s Jim Nabors?”

“It’s Gomer Pyle from the Andy Griffith Show!” I shouted.  “Here!  Here!  Take my picture next to it!”  I am a huge Andy Griffith fan.  My comrades, not so much.  But I got my picture.

After walking up the street for at least a half hour and realizing that the other sidewalk had just as many stars on it we knew that there had to be a better way to find Burt Reynolds.  What we really needed was a “map of the stars.”  You wouldn’t think that a map detailing the location of every person’s star (or stars) that has ever been put on the Walk of Fame would be that difficult to obtain.  But you’d be wrong.  We found it quite difficult to get a map, for free, so we did the next best thing.  We began asking everyone we saw if they knew where Burt Reynolds’ star was.

“Have you seen Burt Reynolds!?” I said as we approached a man kneeling on the ground posing for a picture with a star.
“No,” the puzzled tourist said as he got up from a star that said “Elvis Presley.”  That guy looked at us like we were the crazy ones.  So I shot him back a look that said without a shadow of a doubt “What’d Elvis ever do that was so spectacular?  He never drove a black Trans Am from Texarkana to Atlanta and back in 28 hours, outrunning that old Smokey.”

Finally we came upon a thin, middle aged woman with light brown hair handing out some sort of flyers.  We figured she was a local so she’d have to know where Burt’s star resided.

“Do you know where Burt Reynolds’ star is?!” Tony asked with a combination of desperation and excitement that only a fat man wearing a “motoring cap” can pull off.  “We’re his biggest fans!  We’re the Burt Reynolds Fan Club in Douglasville, Georgia!”  The club was unofficial, but no one at trivia night ever challenged our allegiance to The Burt so I felt confident that this lady handing out flyers wouldn’t question our credentials.

“Well no, but I think that shop over there has a map in it where we can find it,” the woman said.

“OH MY GOD!  This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to us!” Cameron said.  We all were acting like excited schoolchildren in the presence of this complete stranger, but strangely, she didn’t seem to bat an eye.  We followed her over to the shop where we went in and she asked the shopkeeper about Burt Reynolds’ star and he looked at a map that was under the glass countertop.

“About two blocks away in front of a movie theater,” the dirty hippy man said.  We nearly knocked each other over as we scrambled out the door, but then we remembered our southern manners and let the flyer lady go first.

“You know I really love Burt Reynolds too!  He was the hottest thing going in the late 70s and 80s,” she said.

“Was?  You mean still is the hottest thing going!” I said.  “It’s like his mustache gives him super powers of sexiness!”

“Oh I know!  Have you seen his centerfold from Cosmo?” the woman asked, referring to the 1972 issue of Cosmo where a naked Burt Reynolds poses on a bear skin run.  A photograph we had only known about because Cameron’s mom had the magazine and  told us about it once she learned of our unhealthy obsession with Burt.

“He has it!  He has it!” Tony, Scott, and I shouted in unison as we pointed at Cameron and jumped up and down, jubilant at this woman who apparently really did have some sort of Burt Reynolds fetish.

“Thanks guys,” Cameron said as we walked briskly toward the theater where Burt’s star lived.  “Now I’m never going to get laid on this trip.”

“Oh sure you will,” Tony said with assurance.  “We’ll just drop you off in West Hollywood on the way back to the hotel.”